Taylor Swift will face a plagiarism trial in the US over the lyrics to her 2014 banger ‘Shake It Off’, which could throw a spanner in the works of the 1989 (Taylor’s Version) that the Swifties are crying out for.
Back in 2018, two men called Sean Hall and Nathan Butler took out a copyright lawsuit against Swift, alleging that ‘Shake it Off‘ plagiarised a song they wrote for a girl group called 3LW back in 2001.
Famously, ‘Shake it Off’ includes the lyrics “players gonna play, play, play, play, play and the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate”. I can only apologise for the fact that’s going to be on loop in your brain for the next five days.
Hall and Butler’s song ‘Playas Gon’ Play’ features the lyrics “players, they gonna play” and “haters, they gonna hate”.
Originally, judge Michael W Fitzgerald dismissed the lawsuit because the lyrics were “too banal” to be a copyright issue, but Hall and Butler appealed. Then, in 2019, a federal court reversed Fitzgerald’s decision.
Swift requested that the appeal be overturned, but Fitzgerald denied her request. Now, the case will go to a trial before jury at some undisclosed point in the future.
Sidebar: imagine getting called up for jury duty and it’s Taylor Swift there in the witness stand? Simply wild.
Fitzgerald’s reasoning for denying Miss Americana’s request was that “even though there are some noticeable differences between the works, there are also significant similarities in word usage and sequence/structure”.
In a statement to The Guardian, one of Taylor Swift’s reps said “these men are not the originators, or creators, of the common phrases ‘players’ or ‘haters’ or combinations of them. They did not invent these common phrases nor are they the first to use them in a song”.
The rep also said that Hall and Butler’s claim “is not a claim for all creatives, it is a crusade for Mr Hall’s bank account”.
Marina Bogorad, who is representing Hall and Butler, told the publication that “our clients are finally moving closer to the justice they so richly deserve”.
She also said that Fitzgerald’s decision “is especially gratifying to them because it reinforces the idea that their creativity and unique expression cannot be misappropriated without any retribution”.
PEDESTRIAN.TV reached out to representatives for both parties, but didn’t receive a response by the time of publication.
For their part, the singers of ‘Playas ‘Gon Play’, 3LW, have actually publicly supported Swift in the case.
They Tweeted: “stream #RedTaylorsVersion @taylorswift13 we support you”. Then, in a longer note, they wrote “it is not 3LW who are suing Taylor Swift”.
“There is nothing but love and respect for Taylor and her team. Taylor is a talented artist who made her mark!”
— 3LW (@Official_3LW) December 10, 2021
Taylor Swift was sued over ‘Shake it Off’ by a different artist back in 2015. A singer called Jesse Graham tried to take her to court for USD$42 million (around AUD$58 million), arguing she took lyrics from his song ‘Haters Gonna Hate’.
That case was dismissed and – in a cheeky easter egg – the judge at the time said “at present, the Court is not saying that Braham can never, ever, ever get his case back in court.
“But, for now, we have got problems, and the Court is not sure Braham can solve them.”
It’s unclear exactly how much Hall and Butler are seeking in damages, but when the case goes to trial maybe we’ll see Reputation-era Taylor make a long-awaited reappearance.
Getty Images / Kevin Mazur