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Taylor Swift faces jury trial over ‘Shake It Off’ copyright claim

The case about the song's chorus was revived by a federal appeals court

By Joe Goggins

Taylor Swift poses in a Red car
Taylor Swift (Picture: Beth Garrabrant).

A district judge in the US has ruled that Taylor Swift must face trial over claims that she plagiarised the chorus from ‘Shake It Off’.

Sean Hall and Nathan Butler claimed in 2018 that the lines “players gonna play, play, play, play, play” and “haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate” from Swift’s 2014 smash were lifted from a song they’d written back 2001 for the now-defunct girl group 3LW.

Their song, “Playas Gon’ Play”, featured the line “playas, they gonna play, and haters, they gonna hate.” At the time Swift’s lawyers claimed that references to players playing and haters hating were “public domain cliches”, noting similar usage in tracks by the likes of Fleetwood Mac and The Notorious B.I.G.

Yesterday (December 9), Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald struck down Swift’s request to have the case dismissed. Per Billboard, he said: “Even though there are some noticeable differences between the works, there are also significant similarities in word usage and sequence/structure.”

Whilst acknowledging that Swift’s attorneys had made “persuasive arguments”, he concluded that they were insufficient to have the case thrown out. “Although defendants’ experts strongly refute the implication that there are substantial similarities, the court is not inclined to overly credit their opinions here,” the judge said.

A different district judge had dismissed the suit in February 2018, but a federal appeals court subsequently ruled that a jury should decide on the case, as opposed to an individual. Swift has yet to comment.

The ruling is a blot on an otherwise stellar year for Swift, who scored number ones in both the US and UK with the latest two instalments in her ongoing series of re-recorded albums, ‘Fearless’ (Taylor’s Version)’ and ‘Red (Taylor’s Version)’.

In November, the latter became her fifth UK number one album in less than three years. Rolling Stone UK’s Mark Sutherland called it “the most beautifully reconstructed pop record of 2021” in a five-star review.