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Shake It Off: Judge dismisses copyright case over Taylor Swift’s #1 hit

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Big Machine/Republic RecordsA federal court judge in California on Tuesday dismissed a copyright infringement lawsuit over the lyrics of Taylor Swift‘s “Shake It Off,” but the judge is giving the plaintiffs one last shot at reviving their suit.

The case was brought by songwriters Sean Hall and Nathan Butler, who composed 3LW’s 2001 track “Playas Gon’ Play.”  In their suit, filed last September, the writers  allege that Swift lifted their lyric, “Playas, they gonna play / And haters, they gonna hate,” for the chorus of “Shake It Off.”

But in ruling for Swift, the judge found that the phrase was too commonplace at the time to be a copy-protected original creative part of the song.

“In order for such short phrases to be protected under the Copyright Act, they must be more creative than the lyrics at issue here,” the judge wrote. He continued, “…Players, haters, and player haters had received substantial pop culture attention prior to 2001.” 

Simply combining the two — players gonna play, haters gonna hate — the judge ruled, did not make the combined phrase sufficiently original.

“In sum, the lyrics at issue — the only thing that Plaintiffs allege Defendants copied — are too brief, unoriginal, and uncreative to warrant protection under the Copyright Act.”

However, U.S. District Court Judge Michael Fitzgerald did give Hall and Bulter an opportunity to amend their complaint by February 26, though, the judge wrote that the “Court is extremely skeptical” that the plaintiffs will be able to come up with a case that will hold up to legal scrutiny.

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