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Can Taylor Swift Shake Off Lawsuit Over Her ‘Shake It Off’ Lyrics?

Haters, they gonna hate

Haters, they gonna hate. On Monday, songwriters for the girl group 3LW sued Taylor Swift, claiming that her 2014 hit “Shake It Off” ripped off their own 2001 song “Playas Gon’ Play.”

In the complaint filed in U.S. District Court, plaintiffs Sean Hall and Nathan Butler, who co-wrote the “Playas Gon’ Play,” claim, “‘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.'”

Hall and Butler co-authored the song but it was recorded by girl group 3LW and released to the public in May 2001.

It was on top of the Billboard Hot 100 list and according to the suit, helped “springboard” the career of 3LW.  Both Hall and Butler are legal and beneficial owners of the musical composition.

Swift’s “Shake It Off” was the lead single on her album “1989” and became a massive worldwide hit for the artist.

The lawsuit also claims that “Shake It Off” “continues into a four part lyrics sequence with actors engaging in a type of activity,” just like in “Playas Gon’ Play.”

The plaintiffs also state that Swift and her team had access to 3LW’s song and Swift has admitted that she watched MTV’s TRL which promoted “Playas Gon’ Play.” If she had just Google searched the lyrics before releasing the song, “Playas Gon’ Play” “would have appeared further informing Defendants of Plaintiffs’ copyrighted work.”

“Defendants knew or should have known that ‘Playas Gon’ Play’ could not be used in a musical work by Defendants without a license and/or songwriting credit, as is customary standard practice in the music industry,” the suit claims, using Beyonce’s song “Hold Up” as an example. “Despite this industry standard practice, Defendants never sought a license or other permission from Plaintiffs.”

Hall and Butler seek undisclosed damages, attorney’s fees and “any such other and further relief as the Court may deem just and proper.”

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.”

This isn’t the first time Swift has been accused of copycatting.

In 2015, Jesse Braham claimed Swift “stole” the lyrics to his song “Haters Gone Hate,” and sued her for $42 million. Lawyers told Metro UK at the time that “Mr. Braham, who is representing himself, cannot claim copyright protection for the phrases ‘haters gone hate’ and ‘playas gone play’ because the Copyright Act does not protect short phrases and these phrases are not original to him.”

The new lawsuit comes after Swift released the song, “Look What You Made Me Do.” The baseline of the hit was sampled from Right Said Fred’s 1991 hit, “I’m Too Sexy.” BBC reported that Swift’s team approached the band in advance of the release. And right when the song was released, the band tweeted, “Thank you @taylorswift13, what a marvellous reinvention!”

Three members of Right Said Fred — Richard Fairbrass, Fred Faribrass and Rob Manzoli — are credited as songwriters alongside Swift and Jack Antonoff, her longtime collaborator.

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.