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Taylor Swift asks judge to dismiss ‘Shake It Off’ copyright lawsuit

Sean Hall and Nathan Butler, who wrote the 2001 song “Playas Gon’ Play” by the group 3LW, sued the pop star in 2017, alleging she ripped off their lyrics.
Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift performs at the 36th Annual Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse on Oct. 30, 2021.Kevin Kane / Getty Images
/ Source: NBC News

Taylor Swift has asked a judge to dismiss a copyright infringement lawsuit over her single “Shake It Off,” calling the judge’s ruling for the case to proceed to jury trial “unprecedented.”

Her hit, released in 2014, spent four weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100 chart, Billboard reported. 

The pop singer was sued in 2017 by Sean Hall and Nathan Butler, who wrote the 2001 song “Playas Gon’ Play” by the group 3LW, alleging she ripped off their lyrics. 

On Dec. 9, U.S. District Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald denied Swift’s motion for summary judgment and allowed the case to proceed, concluding there is a “genuine dispute as to the potential substantial similarity between the lyrics and their sequential structure.”

The dispute was over Swift’s lyrics, “Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play and the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate,” as Hall and Butler’s song featured the phrases, “playas, they gonna play” and “haters, they gonna hate.”

In a motion filed Dec. 23, Swift’s attorney, Peter Anderson, called the judge’s decision something “no other court has done,” and requested the ruling be “revisited.”

He said the judge’s decision did not include an extrinsic test in copyright law, which distinguishes between the protected and unprotected material in a person’s work.

The filing stated that under the extrinsic test, the only similarity between the songs is that “both works use versions of two short public domain phrases — ‘players gonna play’ and ‘haters gonna hate’ — that are free for everyone to use,” as well as two other tautologies.

“The presence of versions of the two short public domain statements and two other tautologies in both songs ... simply does not satisfy the extrinsic test,” Anderson wrote.

“Otherwise, Plaintiffs could sue everyone who writes, sings, or publicly says ‘players gonna play’ and ‘haters gonna hate’ alone with other tautologies. To permit that is unprecedented and ‘cheat[s] the public domain,’” the motion stated.

Hall and Butler’s attorney Gerard Fox told NBC News Tuesday on the motion, “It is a naked attempt to bury weaker artists who are trying to protect their rights.”

“We represent low income, minority artists in this case who simply want fairness under the law, but Ms. Swift’s legal team is just trying to spend them off the path to justice. Their current motion does not meet the legal standards that apply,” Fox said.

A hearing for the judge to reconsider his ruling is slated for Feb. 7 in Los Angeles court.

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