Taylor Swift’s ‘Shake It Off’ copyright case headed back to court

An appeals court has overruled a district judge who dismissed the case last year

A lawsuit filed against Taylor Swift alleging she stole the lyrics of her 2014 song ‘Shake It Off’ has been revived by an appeals court.

The lawsuit, which was filed in 2017, was dismissed in February 2018 by a federal judge in California. On Monday (October 28), a federal appeals court reversed that decision, Variety reports.

The lawsuit was filed by Sean Hall and Nathan Butler, a songwriting duo who claim that Swift’s ‘1989’ single ripped off the lyrics of their 2001 song ‘Playas Gon’ Play’, which was performed by the girl group 3LW.


The hook of ‘Shake It Off’ goes: “Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play/ And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate / Baby, I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake I shake it off, I shake it off.” Revisit the song below:

The lyrics of ‘Playas Gon’ Play’, on the other hand, go: “Playas, they gonna play / And haters, they gonna hate / Ballers, they gonna ball / Shot callers, they gonna call.” Listen to the song here:

The judge who dismissed the lawsuit, US District Court Judge Michael Fitzgerald, ruled last year that “the allegedly infringing lyrics are short phrases that lack the modicum of originality and creativity required for copyright protection”.

But the panel of three judges overruled Fitzgerald’s decision on the grounds that it took the district court as the final authority on “the worth of an expressive work”, Variety reports, sending the case back to the US district court for consideration.


The appeals court judges cited a 1903 ruling by Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, USA Today reports, in a case that concerned advertisements and copyright.

Holmes wrote at the time: “It would be a dangerous undertaking for persons trained only to the law to constitute themselves final judges of the worth of pictorial illustrations, outside of the narrowest and most obvious limits. At the one extreme, some works of genius would be sure to miss appreciation… At the other end, copyright would be denied to pictures which appealed to a public less educated than the judge.”

Swift’s revived lawsuit follows news of several other copyright infringement claims against musicians. Last week, Lizzo sued songwriters who alleged she denied them credit on her hit song ‘Truth Hurts’, while earlier this month, Lil Nas X, Cardi B and their creative partners on their collaboration ‘Rodeo’ were sued for copyright infringement. Katy Perry has also appealed the ruling in the plagiarism case over her song ‘Dark Horse’.

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