Songwriters Sean Hall and Nathan Butler allege Swift stole the lyrics to their 2001 song.
The suit, which was originally filed in 2017 by songwriters Sean Hall and Nathan Butler, claimed Swift stole the lyrics to their 2001 song “Playas Gon’ Play” by 3LW for her mega-hit.
“We are happy the court unanimously sided with us,” said Hall in a statement on yesterday’s decision, also speaking on behalf of Butler. “We simply refuse to sit still and have our creative work be culturally appropriated as if it never existed. This case is giving voice to all of those creatives who can’t afford to stand up and protect their work in the face of well financed Goliaths.”
In response, Swift’s rep disputed Hall’s characterization of the decision, stating, “Mr. Hall is incorrect, the court did not unanimously side in their favor, the court sent the case back to the lower court for further determination.
“These men are not the originators, or creators, of the common phrases ‘Players’ or ‘Haters’ or combinations of them,” the representative added. “They did not invent these common phrases nor are they the first to use them in a song. We are confident the true writers of ‘Shake It Off’ will prevail again. Their claim is not a crusade for all creatives, it is a crusade for Mr. Hall’s bank account.”
Monday’s decision reverses a February 2018 dismissal of the suit by U.S. District Court Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald, who found that the lyrics at issue were “too brief, unoriginal, and uncreative to warrant protection under the Copyright Act.”
But in Monday’s ruling, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit found that conclusion to be premature. “By concluding that, ‘for such short phrases to be protected under the Copyright Act, they must be more creative than the lyrics at issues here,’ the district court constituted itself as the final judge of the worth of an expressive work,” stated the ruling. “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 has now been remanded to a district court.