Taylor Swift has been accused of copying lyrics for her 2014 hit, ‘Shake it Off’ from girl group 3LW’s 2001 song, ‘Playas Gon’ Play’. Specifically, Taylor Swift is accused of copying the lyrics, ‘players gonna play’ and ‘haters gonna hate’.
At the first instance, United States District Judge Michael W Fitzgerald rejected the case stating the lyrics were too ‘brief, unoriginal and uncreative’ to be copyrighted. He said:
“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, no more creative than ‘runners gonna run’; ‘drummers gonna drum’; or ‘swimmers gonna swim’. The concept of actors acting in accordance with their essential nature is not at all creative, it is banal.”
Judge Fitzgerald also cited thirteen earlier songs with similar lyrics.
However, Sean Hall and Nathan Butler (the writers of 3LW’s song) appealed the decision and the federal appeals court reversed it.
The case returned to Judge Fitzgerald who then stated, ‘even though there are some noticeable differences between the works, there are also significant similarities in word usage, sequence and structure. The court cannot presently determine that no reasonable juror could find substantial similarity of lyrical phrasing, word arrangement, or poetic structure between the two works.’
A date for the trial has not yet been confirmed. The question for the jury will likely be, did Taylor Swift incidentally create a similar song independently, or did she copy it as accused?