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Taylor Swift shakes off copyright infringement lawsuit

Just in time for Christmas, Federal court Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald has dismissed a copyright infringement lawsuit filed by songwriters Sean Hall and Nathan Butler against Taylor Swift. The 2017 lawsuit alleged that the lyrics from Swift’s 2014 hit “Shake It Off” ("Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play/And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate") infringed on the Hall and Butler-penned "Playas Gon' Play," released by R&B girl group 3LW in 2000.



Previously, another judge had dismissed the lawsuit in 2018, commenting that the lyrics were "too banal" to be stolen. However, an appeals court panel brought the case back in 2019 leading Swift to move for dismissal a second time which motion was denied when the trial court determined that the two songs had "enough objective similarities" to warrant a trial.


Earlier this year, Swift issued a statement asserting that the lyrics to “Shake It Off,” which peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, "were written entirely by me" and drew from her experiences with "unrelenting public scrutiny of my personal life, 'clickbait' reporting, public manipulation and other forms of negative personal criticism."


"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," she said in the court filling.

Swift said her parents did not allow her to watch MTV’s "Total Request Live" until she was around 13 years old, and the song first appeared on 3LW's self-titled debut album when she was 10.


In the court’s most recent ruling, the lawsuit was dismissed “with prejudice,” meaning that the dismissal is final and the copyright infringement claim can’t be filed again by Hall and Butler.


Why It Matters.


“Greedy opportunists gonna file copyright infringement lawsuits.”


While it might not make it into a Taylor Swift song (or anyone else’s song lyrics for that matter), the sad reality of America’s litigious society is that opportunities abound and hungry attorneys are always willing to take on a case if they see enough potential dollar signs at the end of the road.


True, too, is the axiom that ‘all art is derivative’ and it is virtually impossible for a new song or painting or television show not to be released that doesn’t share some similarities with similar creative ventures that have come before. the challenge, of course, will be for courts, judges, and juries to decide when those new works too closely resemble older works enough to constitute actionable copyright infringement.

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