Swift copyright infringement allegation fails – but has one last play

March 2018

Music publishing


The copyright lawsuit filed against Taylor Swift claiming the lyrics to her 2014 track ‘Shake It Off’ infringed on a 2001 hit by American girl group 3lw has been dismissed by the federal court of California. The plaintiffs, songwriters Sean Hall and Nathan Butler, of the 3lw track ‘Playas Gon’ Play’ claimed there were similarities between the lyrics that infringed their copyright.

As there was no dispute over whether Hall and Butler owned their lyrics, or that Swift’s team had access to the song or that the underlying musical composition was similar and the case focussed on the lyrics

The lyrics to the 3lw track include: “Playas, they gonna play/ And haters, they gonna hate.”  

The chorus to Swifts’ chorus is: “Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play/ And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.

Swift’s lega; team had dubbed the claim a “money grab”.


US District Judge Michael Fitzgerald has now granted Swift’s the ability to dismiss the lawsuit. Howeever the plaintiffs will be able to amend their complaint if they can cite more similarities by February 26th.


Judge Fitzegerald said: “The lynchpin of this entire case is thus whether or not the lyrics ‘Playas, they gonna play / And haters, they gonna hate’ are eligible for protection under the Copyright Act,”  adding “[B]y 2001, American popular culture was heavily steeped in the concepts of players, haters, and player haters. … The concept of actors acting in accordance with their essential nature is not at all creative; it is banal” and  “The allegedly infringed lyrics are short phrases that lack the modicum of originality and creativity required for copyright protection” 


Judge Fitzgerald did add: “While the Court is extremely skeptical that Plaintiffs will – in a manner consistent with Rule 11 – be able to rehabilitate their copyright infringement claim in an amended complaint, out of an abundance of forbearance it will give Plaintiffs a single opportunity to try.”







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