A representative for Taylor Swift has issued a statement on a copyright lawsuit concerning the lyrics to her 2014 hit ‘Shake It Off’, which was revived on Monday.
In 2017, songwriters Sean Hall and Nathan Butler sued Swift, alleging her ‘1989’ single copied lyrics from their 2001 song for the girl group 3LW, ‘Playas Gon’ Play’. The case was dismissed in February 2018, but that decision was overturned on October 28 by an appeals court.
In a statement on the revived case, per Billboard, Hall – who also spoke on behalf of Butler – said, “We are happy the court unanimously sided with us. We simply refuse to sit still and have our creative work be culturally appropriated as if it never existed. This case is giving voice to all of those creatives who can’t afford to stand up and protect their work in the face of well-financed Goliaths.”
Swift’s representative fired back at the songwriters in a statement: “Mr. Hall is incorrect, the court did not unanimously side in their favour, the court sent the case back to the lower court for further determination.”
The rep then addressed Hall and Butler’s claim that the hook of ‘Shake It Off’ had copied the lyrics of ‘Playas Gon’ Play’, which read: “Playas, they gonna play / And haters, they gonna hate / Ballers, they gonna ball / Shot callers, they gonna call.”
“These men are not the originators, or creators, of the common phrases ‘Players’ or ‘Haters’ or combinations of them,” Swift’s rep asserted. “They did not invent these common phrases nor are they the first to use them in a song. We are confident the true writers of ‘Shake It Off’ will prevail again. Their claim is not a crusade for all creatives, it is a crusade for Mr. Hall’s bank account.”
The US District Court judge who dismissed the lawsuit last year did so on the grounds that “the allegedly infringing lyrics are short phrases that lack the modicum of originality and creativity required for copyright protection”.
The panel of three judges that overruled that decision on Monday wrote, “By concluding that, ‘for such short phrases to be protected under the Copyright Act, they must be more creative than the lyrics at issues here’, the district court constituted itself as the final judge of the worth of an expressive work.
“Because the absence of originality is not established either on the face of the complaint or through the judicially noticed matters, we reverse the district court’s dismissal.”