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Taylor Swift set to face trial for ‘Shake it Off’ copyright lawsuit

Taylor Swift has to face a jury trial over a copyright lawsuit involving her 2014 hit “Shake it Off.” 

The copyright lawsuit was filed by Sean Hall and Nathan Butler, the songwriters of American girl-group 3LW’s 2001 song “Playas Gon’ Play.” Hall and Butler filed the case on the grounds that some of the lines from Swift’s “Shake it Off” had allegedly taken lines from “Playas Gon’ Play.” 

The lyrics from “Shake it Off” goes like “‘Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play and the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate,” while “Playas Gon’ Play” has lines “playas, they gonna play” and “haters, they gonna hate.”   

Hall and Butler had filed the copyright lawsuit back in 2017, but the case was immediately tossed by Judge Fitzgerald in 2018. Fitzgerald had dismissed the case on the grounds that the lyrics of “Playas Gon’ Play” were “short phrases that lack the modicum of originality and creativity required for copyright protection.” The judge also cited 13 other songs that were released earlier that had similar phrases in their lyrics, including “Playa Hater” by The Notorious B.I.G. and “Man U Luv to Hate” by Sir Mix-A-Lot. 

However, in 2019, a federal appeals court intervened and reversed Fitzgerald’s ruling, saying that the judge had dismissed the case too quickly and that “Playas Gon’ Play” was sufficiently creative for copyright protection. The case was then sent back to Judge Fitzgerald for new proceedings. 

Swift’s team had requested to toss out the case once more, and Swift had requested for Fitzgerald to grant her immediate ruling that she had not infringed any copyrights, but the judge refused. Judge Fitzgerald ruled on Thursday, December 9, that Swift must face a jury trial over the copyright infringement accusation. 

According to the judge, though “Shake it Off” and “Playas Gon’ Play” had “some noticeable differences,” the two also had “significant similarities in word usage and sequence/structure,” so he could not dismiss the case. He added that Swift’s defense would present “a strong closing argument,” but the singer still needs to face a jury trial. 

The jury trial is tentatively scheduled for August 2022. 


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