A federal judge of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California denied a request by Taylor Swift to throw out a copyright infringement suit accusing her of stealing lyrics from the female R&B trio 3LW’s 2001 song “Playas Gon’ Play” in her 2014 hit song “Shake It Off.”
Initially filed in 2017, the lawsuit by Sean Hall and Nathan Butler, co-writers of “Playas Gon’ Play”—recorded by 3LW (Kiely Williams, Naturi Naughton, and Adrienne Bailon)— questions whether portions of Swift’s song, including lyrics Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play/And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate are similar enough to 3LW’s Playas, they gon’ play/And haters, they gonna hate.
If Swift’s song meets the legal threshold for copyright infringement, the case will go to trial. Judge Michael Fitzgerald dismissed the case in February 2018, stating that the lyrics were “too brief, unoriginal, and uncreative” to be protected under the Copyright Act.
“In the early 2000s, popular culture was adequately suffused with the concepts of players and haters to render the phrases ‘playas … gonna play’ or ‘haters … gonna hate’ standing on their own,” said Fitzgerald in his initial ruling, “no more creative than ‘runners gonna run,’ ‘drummers gonna drum,’ or ‘swimmers gonna swim.”
The case was later returned to court by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Despite Swift’s legal team making a strong closing argument, according to Fitzgerald, the case may still go to trial.
“Although defendants have made a strong closing argument for a jury, they have not shown that there are no genuine issues of triable fact such that Defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law,” read the court papers, naming producers Max Martin and Karl Johan Schuster (aka Shellback), who co-wrote the 1989 hit with Swift, as defendants.
Additional defendants in the case include Big Machine Label Group, Universal Music Group, and music publishers Sony and Kobalt.
Photo: Taylor Swift / YouTube