Adult Contemporary

Taylor Swift’s lawyers want judge to dismiss “Shake It Off” case, argue he made a “clear error”

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In December 9, U.S. District Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald refused to dismiss a a copyright case involving Taylor Swift‘s hit “Shake It Off,” and ruled that it should go to trial.  Now, as Billboard reports, Taylor’s legal team is asking the judge to reconsider his “unprecedented” decision, saying he made a “clear error.”

The case, originally filed in 2017, was brought by songwriters Sean Hall and Nathan Butler, who wrote the 2001 3LW song “Playas Gon’ Play.”  They claim Taylor infringed on their copyright because the lyrics in their song go “playas, they gonna play” and “haters, they gonna hate.” Taylor’s lyrics go, “‘Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play and the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.”

Earlier this month, Fitzgerald ruled that there were “significant similarities in word usage and sequence/structure” between the two songs, but declared that it was too close to call, so a jury would have to decide. 

But now, Taylor’s lawyers are claiming that if permitted to go to trial, the case could result in Hall and Butler being able to sue “everyone who writes, sings, or publicly says ‘players gonna play’ and ‘haters gonna hate.’”

The lawyers claim that Fitzgerald’s mistake was that he failed to apply an important test of copyright law: the process where judges have to filter out material in the public domain before comparing two works.

Taylor’s attorneys argued that the only thing the two songs have in common are “two short public domain phrases – ‘players gonna play’ and ‘haters gonna hate’ —  that are free for everyone to use” — and then the repetition of those phrases.

In a statement to Billboard, a attorney for Hall and Butler says the motion to dismiss the case is “groundless,” adding, “All it asks is for the court to reverse itself because Swift is unhappy with the ruling.”

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