Taylor Swift can shake off one nettlesome legal entanglement.
“Reputation” singer Swift has emerged victorious in a lawsuit brought against her claiming that her hit single “Shake It Off” infringed on another artist’s work.
Swift was sued in September by songwriters Sean Hall and Nathan Butler, who contended that “Shake It Off ” infringes on their 2001 song “Playas Gon’ Play,” recorded by girl group 3LW.
The suit stated, “‘Shake It Off’ copies and includes Plaintiff’s lyrics phrase, ‘Playas, they gonna play / And haters, they gonna hate’ by featuring the lyrical phrase ‘Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play and the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate’ prominently throughout the chorus of ‘Shake It Off.’ In all, the infringed copyrighted material accounts for roughly 20 percent of ‘Shake It Off.'”
However, in an order handed down Tuesday, federal Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald sided with Swift’s defense that the elements in question weren’t unique enough to fall under copyright protection.
Fitzgerald left room for the defendants to file an amended complaint — however, he made it clear that it would be a long-shot.
“The allegedly infringed lyrics are short phrases that lack the modicum of originality and creativity required for copyright protection. Accordingly, if there was copying, it was only of unprotected elements of ‘Playas Gon’ Play.’ 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,” the order reads. “Any future dismissal will be without leave to amend.”
The plaintiffs have until Feb. 26 to file an amended complaint.
Tuesday’s order noted the numerous uses of the word “player” and its variants in music prior to the lawsuit.
“In order for such short phrases to be protected under the Copyright Act, they must be more creative than the lyrics at issue here. As discussed above, players, haters, and player haters had received substantial pop culture attention prior to 2001,” the order reads. “It is hardly surprising that Plaintiffs, hoping to convey the notion that one should persist regardless of others’ thoughts or actions, focused on both players playing and haters hating when numerous recent popular songs had each addressed the subjects of players, haters, and player haters, albeit to convey different messages than Plaintiffs were trying to convey. In short, combining two truisms about playas and haters, both wellworn notions as of 2001, is simply not enough. ”
At the time of the lawsuit’s filing, Swift’s spokesperson said in a statement to TheWrap, “This is a ridiculous claim and nothing more than a money grab. The law is simple and clear. They do not have a case.”
Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.