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Taylor Swift fails in latest attempt to have copyright claim dismissed

The dispute over 'Shake It Off' will go to trial in January 2023

By Joe Goggins

Taylor Swift onstage, 2015
Swift claims not to have heard the plaintiffs' track. (Photo: GabboT/Wikimedia Commons)

Taylor Swift has again failed in her attempts to have a copyright lawsuit struck down before the case goes to trial.

The pop titan has been facing legal action over her 2014 smash ‘Shake It Off’ since 2017, when Sean Hall and Nathan Butler filed a lawsuit against her, claiming that the lyrics to the track’s chorus were lifted from a song they’d written in 2001 for the R&B group 3LW.

Initially, that suit was dismissed by US District Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald, on the basis that the lyrics to the pair’s track ‘Playas Gon’ Play’ were “too brief, unoriginal, and uncreative to warrant protection under the Copyright Act.”

However, an appeal lodged in 2019 was upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, who ruled that a jury should decide whether the lines “playas, they gonna play/and haters, they gonna hate,” are substantially similar to Swift’s assertion that “players gonna play, play, play, play, play/and the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.”

Judge Fitzgerald cited expert opinion provided by the plaintiffs as a motivating factor in refusing Swift’s last-minute request for reconsideration. “I don’t think it meets the standard for reconsideration,” he said, “and even if it did, and I was approaching it again on the merits, I still think there’s a genuine issue of material fact in part because of the expert opinion.”

Accordingly, the case is now set to go to trial, beginning on January 17 next year. “The lyrics to ‘Shake It Off’ were written entirely by me,” said Swift in her summary judgement motion, per Billboard. “Until learning about Plaintiffs’ claim in 2017, I had never heard the song ‘Playas Gon’ Play’ and had never heard of that song or the group 3LW.”

‘Shake It Off’, she went on to explain, was born of “unrelenting public scrutiny of my personal life, ‘clickbait’ reporting, public manipulation, and other forms of negative personal criticism which I learned I just needed to shake off and focus on my music.”

Before the trial, Swift will release her tenth studio album, ‘Midnights’, on October 21. She confirmed the news at the MTV Video Music Awards last month.