20 September 2017Copyright

Taylor Swift taken to court over ‘Shake it Off’, again

Pop star Taylor Swift has again found herself in court over alleged copyright infringement in relation to her hit song “Shake it Off”.

Songwriters Sean Hall and Nathan Butler sued Swift, and Universal Music, at the US District Court for the Central District of California on Monday, September 18.

They claimed (pdf) that Swift’s song copies lyrics and has a substantially similar sequence, resulting in the infringed copyrighted material accounting for roughly 20% of “Shake it Off”.

Hall and Butler created the song “Playas Gon’ Play”, which was recorded by the girl group 3LW and released in May 2001.

The song stayed on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart for weeks, peaking at Number 81.

“Playas Gon’ Play” includes the phrase “Playas, they gonna play/And haters, they gonna hate”.

Swift’s song features the lyrics “Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play/And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate”.

Hall and Butler claimed: “The combination of playas/players playing along with hatas/haters hating may seem like common parlance today, however, in 2001 it was completely original and unique. Indeed, the combination had not been used in popular culture prior to plaintiffs’ original use.”

Swift knew or should have known that “Playas Gon’ Play” could not be used without a licence, they said, as is “customary standard practice in the music industry”.

“For example, Beyoncé’s song ‘Hold Up’ features lyrics from two previous copyrighted works—the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ ‘Maps’ and Soulja Boy’s ‘Turn My Swag On’,” they said, adding that the use of lyrics from both the songs was “cleared in advance with the copyright owners”.

Hall and Butler are seeking damages, a jury trial and attorneys’ fees.

In November 2015, WIPR  reported that the same Californian court dismissed a copyright claim over “Shake it Off”.

District Judge Gail Standish threw out singer Jesse Braham’s claim that “Shake it Off” had infringed the copyright to his own “Haters Gone Hate” musical track, which was uploaded to YouTube in 2013.

Swift recently hit the headlines over another round of trademark applications, filed to coincide with the upcoming release of her album “Reputation”.

Her marketing company, TAS (Taylor Alison Swift) Rights Management, applied to register the marks ‘Look what you made me do’, ‘Reputation’, and ‘The old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now’.

Gerard Fox, founder of Gerard Fox Law and representative of the plaintiffs, said: "My clients and I have a great deal of respect for Taylor Swift. However, as our case alleges, we believe there has been some unlawful copyright infringement with respect to key lyrics in the musical composition at issue."

A spokesperson for Swift said: "This is a ridiculous claim and nothing more than a money grab. The law is simple and clear. They do not have a case."

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More on this story

6 September 2017   Pop star Taylor Swift has begun another round of trademark applications, to coincide with the upcoming release of her album “Reputation”.
14 February 2018   The US District Court for the Central District of California has dismissed a copyright claim brought against singer Taylor Swift by songwriters Sean Hall and Nathan Butler.
29 October 2019   Taylor Swift will once again face claims that she ripped off some of the lyrics for her hook in the 2014 hit “Shake It Off”, after the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit revived a copyright lawsuit over the song.