Here’s one lawsuit Taylor Swift just can’t shake off. On Thursday (December 9th), a federal judge ruled the pop singer must face a jury trial after being accused of taking lyrics from 3LW’s “Playas Gon’ Play” for her 2014 hit “Shake It Off.”
Per Billboard, US District Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald turned down Swift’s request to dismiss the case, ruling that there were “enough objective similarities” between the two songs that a jury could come to the conclusion that “Shake It Off” had infringed on the copyright to 2001’s “Playas Gon’ Play.”
“Even though there are some noticeable differences between the works, there are also significant similarities in word usage and sequence/structure,” the judge wrote. “It is clear that there are enough objective similarities amongst the works to imply that the Court cannot presently determine that no reasonable juror could find substantial similarity of lyrical phrasing, word arrangement, or poetic structure between the two works.”
First filed against Swift in September 2017 by “Playas Gon’ Play” songwriters Sean Hall and Nathan Butler, the lawsuit claims her song stole their lyrics, “Playas, they gonna play/ And haters, they gonna hate.” In “Shake It Off,” Swift sings, “Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play/ And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.”
Judge Fitzgerald actually dismissed the case in February 2018, ruling that “the allegedly infringed lyrics are short phrases that lack the modicum of originality and creativity required for copyright protection.” At the time, the judge pointed to several songs using similar phrases, including tracks by The Notorious B.I.G. (“Playa Hater”), OutKast (“Elevators (Me & You)”), and Aaliyah (“Are You That Somebody?”).
However, a federal appeals court reversed that ruling one year later, saying Fitzgerald had dismissed the case too early and that the “Playas Gon’ Play” lyrics were creative enough for copyright protection. Once the case returned to Judge Fitzgerald, Swift asked to be granted a summary judgment to dismiss the lawsuit.
No date has been set for the jury trial.