Court judge says Taylor Swift’s lyrics are too ‘banal’ to suffer copyright infringement

Taylor Swift may have avoided a copyright infringement case but that came at the cost of a court judge throwing a tonne of shade.

music Updated: Feb 16, 2018 14:17 IST
Agence France-Presse
Taylor Swift,Taylor Swift Song,Shake It Off
Taylor Swift in Shake It Off video.

The haters are still gonna hate. A judge has ruled that Taylor Swift’s turn of phrase in her hit Shake It Off is too banal for copyright infringement.

Swift was sued by the songwriters of the 2001 song “Playas Gon’ Play” performed by 3LW, an all-woman R&B trio that had modest success for several years.

Songwriters Sean Hall and Nathan Butler accused Swift’s team of stealing their lyrics as both their song and “Shake It Off” contain variations of “Players gonna play” and “Haters gonna hate.”

But a federal judge, in a 16-page decision that reflected on the meaning of the two phrases, said that the lyrics “are not sufficiently creative to warrant protection.”

Los Angeles-based Judge Michael Fitzgerald said that “players, haters, and player haters had received substantial pop culture attention prior to 2001.”

Fitzgerald said he was not persuaded by the “clever” argument of the songwriters that the verb contraction “gonna” made the phrase uniquely creative.

“To explicitly state the argument is to see how banal the asserted creativity is,” he wrote in the decision issued Tuesday.

Lawyers for Swift, who made “Shake It Off” the lead single off her blockbuster album “1989,” noted that plenty of other songs had the words “players” -- often slang for charmers who seek out multiple romantic partners -- and “haters.”

They pointed to “Playa Hater” by The Notorious B.I.G., released shortly after the New York rap legend’s 1997 death, the song “Hater Players” a year later by hip-hop duo Black Star, and even Fleetwood Mac’s classic 1977 song “Dreams,” with its line, “Players only love you when they’re playing.”

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First Published: Feb 16, 2018 14:17 IST