Copyright Infringement

Taylor Swift Asks Judge to “Shake Off” Copyright Lawsuit

Taylor Swift is trying to get a judge to dismiss a copyright infringement lawsuit filed against her for her single, “Shake It Off,” calling it “unprecedented.” The suit was brought by Nathan Butler and Sean Hall, who wrote the song “Playas Gon’ Play” in 2001, for the group 3LW. They used the pop diva in 2017, claiming that she stole their lyrics.

Swift’s hit song was released in 2014 and stayed at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart for four weeks.

Earlier in December, U.S. District Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald denied Swift’s request for summary judgment, allowing the case to proceed. He concluded that there was enough of a dispute about the similarity of the song lyrics and structure to warrant further investigation.

The suit contended that Swift’s lyrics, “Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play and the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate” were taken from Hall and Butler’s track, which used the phrases “playas, they gonna play” and “haters, they gonna hate.”

Peter Anderson, Swift’s attorney, filed a motion that asked the judge to revisit the ruling. He stated that there was no extrinsic test done—a standard procedure in copyright law that distinguishes between a work’s protected and unprotected material. Anderson maintained that both songs use versions of two phrases that are in the public domain and are free for any individual to use. He concluded that to restrict that usage is a violation of the concept of public domain.

Gerald Fox, Hall and Butler’s lawyer, called the motion an “attempt to bury weaker artists who are trying to protect their rights.” He also accused Swift’s legal team of trying to “spend them off the path to justice.”   

A court hearing is scheduled for February 7 in Los Angeles, where the judge will reconsider his ruling.

NBC News – December 29, 2021 – Marlene Lenthang and Juliette Arcodia

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