Judge Says Copyright Case Against Taylor Swift Can Proceed

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A lawsuit over Taylor Swift’s 2014 hit “Shake It Off” is getting a second life.

U.S. District Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald says songwriters Sean Hall and Nathan Butler “have sufficiently alleged a protectable selection and arrangement or a sequence of creative expression” and Swift’s “use as alleged is similar enough” for the case to proceed.

In February 2018, Fitzgerald dismissed the claim against the pop star, ruling that the lyrics at issue “are too brief, unoriginal, and uncreative to warrant protection under the Copyright Act.” Last October, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals sent the case back to Fitzgerald.

“Originality, as we have long recognized, is normally a question of fact,” read the decision from a panel of three appellate judges. “Because the absence of originality is not established either on the face of the complaint or through the judicially noticed matters, we reverse the district court’s dismissal.”

Hall and Butler alleged “Shake It Off” ripped off their 2001 track “Playas Gon’ Play.”

The pair’s song, which was recorded by girl group 3LW, contains the lyrics “Playas, they gonna play / and haters, they gonna hate” while Swift’s has “Players gonna play, play, play, play, play / And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.”

Swift’s lawyers previously said the idea of players playing and haters hating are “public domain clichés” and said the copyright claim was nothing but a “money grab.”

Two months after he dismissed the case, Fitzgerald said the lawsuit was “not factually spurious or farfetched” and slammed Swift for seeking legal costs from the plaintiffs.

"Shake It Off," from Swift's album 1989, is credited to the singer as well as Max Martin and Shellback.

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