Judge Dismisses Taylor Swift Lawsuit While Pouring the Burn Sauce

Image via Getty.
Image via Getty.

A judge has dismissed a copyright case against Taylor Swift for her popular song “Shake It Off,” saying the lyrics within were too banal to be copyrighted. Ouch.

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The BBC reports that the suit was brought last year by songwriters Sean Hall and Nathan Butler, who alleged Swift stole her chorus for the hit from their song for girl band 3LW titled “Playas Gon’ Play.” That song asserts “playas, they gonna play, and haters, they gonna hate,” while “Shake It Off” insists “the players gonna play, play, play, play, play and the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.” You can see the similarities for yourself.

Judge Michael W Fitzgerald ultimately ruled against Hall and Butler, but his statement on the matter burns everyone involved hard:

“In the early 2000s, popular culture was adequately suffused with the concepts of players and haters to render the phrases ‘playas… gonna play’ or ‘haters… gonna hate’, standing on their own, no more creative than ‘runners gonna run’; ‘drummers gonna drum’; or ‘swimmers gonna swim.’

“The concept of actors acting in accordance with their essential nature is not at all creative; it is banal.

“The allegedly infringed lyrics are short phrases that lack the modicum of originality and creativity required for copyright protection,” Fitzgerald added.

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In Fitzgerald’s opinion, the lyrics can’t be protected under the Copyright Act because they’re “too brief, unoriginal, and uncreative.” Guess he’s Team Perry.

Hall and Butler’s lawyer, Gerard Fox, says they plan to appeal the ruling, because actually this defeat is humiliating for Fitzgerald, who is too out of touch to even get it.

“He cannot make himself an expert in the music industry,” said Fox. “I’m sorry. It’s actually embarrassing.”

Meanwhile, somewhere in her haunted mansion, Swift is throwing a glass of Chardonnay into a fireplace and muttering, “ The haters. The haters will hate, hate, hate.”

Contributing Writer, writing my first book for the Dial Press called The Lonely Hunter, follow me on Twitter @alutkin

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DISCUSSION

Hi! Friendly neighborhood litigator here! This isn’t so much a burn on Taylor as it is an accurate statement of copyright law. You can’t copyright short, commonly-used phrases, because that’s not really what the law is intended to protect, and the law shouldn’t be used to create monopolies on super-common phrases because that would lead to absurdity. For a phrase to be protectible, the law dictates that it must be an original work of authorship which contains “a modicum of creativity.” So like, yes, he’s saying that this particular snippet of text isn’t creative enough to be copyrighted, but he’s not passing judgment on it as a a work of art; he’s merely deciding whether it’s met the legal test to be protected intellectual property. So like... this article is technically correct but isn’t really capturing the essence of what’s going on here.