Appeals Court Revives Copyright Lawsuit Against Taylor Swift

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Taylor Swift can’t seem to shake off a copyright infringement lawsuit filed in 2018 by a pair of songwriters.

On Monday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals revived the lawsuit from Sean Hall and Nathan Butler that alleged Swift’s 2014 hit “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.”

In February 2018, U.S. District Court Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald ruled the lyrics at issue “are too brief, unoriginal, and uncreative to warrant protection under the Copyright Act” and tossed the case.

In April 2018, Fitzgerald slammed Swift for seeking legal costs from the plaintiffs. The judge said the lawsuit was “not factually spurious or farfetched” and that the pop superstar should welcome a system in which songwriters can make copyright infringement claims without fear of huge legal costs.

“Be careful what you wish for,” Fitzgerald wrote in his ruling. “There are very few recording artists, if any, who have a greater interest than Ms. Swift in a robust regime of copyright law.”

Now, a panel of three appellate judges has overturned the dismissal. “Originality, as we have long recognized, is normally a question of fact,” reads the decision. “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.”

The case will now go back to the District Court.

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