Skip to main content

Taylor Swift Shakes Off Copyright Lawsuit for Good

Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift attends the “All Too Well” premiere at AMC Lincoln Square on Nov. 12, 2021 in New York.

After five years in litigation, star singer Taylor Swift can now completely shake off a copyright lawsuit over her 2014 hit single.

Songwriters Sean Hall and Nathan Butler sued the pop star in 2017, claiming that the chorus in Swift’s song “Shake It Off” which says, “Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play and the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate” was stolen from their 2000 song “Playas Gon’ Play.” Hall and Butler’s song, written for U.S. girl group 3LW, contains the lyric “Playas, they gonna play, and haters, they gonna hate.”

Swift maintained that she had never heard the 3LW song and wrote the lyrics independently, and argued that the expressions contained in her song were conversational expressions that were part of everyday language.

At first, U.S. District Judge Michael Fitzgerald (a Barack Obama appointee) agreed with Swift and dismissed the case, ruling that statements about “playas” and “haters” were “well-worn notions” that could not be protected by copyright. A federal appeals court overturned that ruling, however, and revived the lawsuit.

When the case landed back on the Fitzgerald’s docket, Swift moved to dismiss and argued that the plaintiffs had improperly pleaded copying of their lyrics. This time, the judge sided with the plaintiffs and ruled that the case would survive Swift’s bid to dismiss and move forward toward trial.

But just weeks before the trial was set to begin in federal court in California, a joint request to dismiss the case was filed by the parties. The terms of the settlement have not yet been made public.

Judge Fitzgerald signed an order Monday dismissing the case with prejudice, meaning that the litigation cannot be re-filed.

Swift’s settlement of the copyright litigation comes just days after the star made headlines for a connection with another lawsuit. Twenty-six of Swift’s fans sued Ticketmaster on Dec. 2, claiming fraud and antitrust violations were committed. The plaintiffs alleged that the ticketing platform has an illegal monopoly on ticket sales for Swift’s concerts and that it is engaged in illegal price fixing. Swift herself is not a party to the lawsuit.

Ticketmaster, for its part, denied allegations of anticompetitive conduct as Congress raised the specter of hearings on Capitol Hill.

Attorneys for the parties did not immediately respond to request for comment.

[Image via Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images]

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow Law&Crime:

Elura is a columnist and trial analyst for Law & Crime. Elura is also a former civil prosecutor for NYC's Administration for Children's Services, the CEO of Lawyer Up, and the author of How To Talk To Your Lawyer and the Legalese-to-English series. Follow Elura on Twitter @elurananos