Taylor Swift addresses ‘Shake It Off’ copyright lawsuit: “The lyrics were written entirely by me”

"[I] had never heard of that song or the group,” Swift wrote in the court document

Taylor Swift has addressed a 2017 copyright lawsuit that claimed she stole the lyrics of her 2014 song ‘Shake It Off’.

Writing in a federal court document filed yesterday (August 8), the popstar denied any copyright infringement, and claimed she’d “never heard” the song she is accused of plagiarising – 2001’s ‘Playas Gon’ Play’ by the American pop trio 3LW.

In excerpts of the motion obtained by Billboard, Swift unequivocally rejected the accusation, writing that “the lyrics to ‘Shake It Off’ were written entirely by me”, before providing context around how they came to be included in the song.

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“In writing the lyrics, I drew partly on experiences in my life and, in particular, 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,” Swift wrote.

Elsewhere in the motion, Swift spoke directly to the lyric in question, arguing that “players gonna play” and “haters gonna hate” were widespread aphorisms used throughout her childhood, “akin to … sayings like ‘don’t hate the playa, hate the game,’” and “‘take a chill pill’”.

“I recall hearing phrases about players play and haters hate stated together by other children while attending school in Wyomissing Hills, and in high school in Hendersonville,” Swift said.

Swift also cited the numerous uses of the phrase ​​in “many songs, films, and other works,” and referenced a 2013 performance in which she wore a T-shirt emblazoned with the term “haters gonna hate.”

The lawsuit — filed by ‘Playas Gon’ Play’ songwriters Sean Hall and Nathan Butler — was dropped in 2018, but was later resurrected by an appeals panel the following year. In December 2021, having deemed it too close to call, a judge ruled that the case be decided by a jury, although an official court trial date has not yet been set.

For their part, Swift’s lawyers bolstered her rejection of the claims, arguing that no singular entity can monopolise a term so widely used in pop culture.

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Peter Anderson, who is serving as Swift’s attorney, wrote: “It is, unfortunately, not unusual for a hit song to be met by litigants hoping for a windfall based on tenuous claims that their own song was copied… But even against that background, [the] Plaintiffs’ claim sticks out as particularly baseless.”

In her supporting declaration, Swift argued that she couldn’t have plagiarised the 3LW track since she “had never heard the song ‘Playas Gon’ Play’ and had never heard of that song or the group 3LW.”

“The first time I ever heard the song was after this claim was made,” she wrote.

‘Shake It Off’ was the lead single from Swift’s fifth studio album, ‘1989’. 3LW, meanwhile, released ‘Playas Gon’ Play’ in 2001 as part of the girl group’s self-titled debut album.

Elsewhere, Swift has also defended her plane usage, after topping a list of the biggest private jet polluters last month.

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