A federal appeals court in California has ruled that a copyright infringement lawsuit filed against pop star Taylor Swift can go forward. The claim was originally dismissed by a judge in a lower court.
The case before the court was filed by songwriters Sean Hall and Nathan Butler, who wrote the 2001 song “Playas Gon’ Play” by R&B group 3LW. The song, which was considered a minor hit, featured the lyrics “playas, they gonna play” and “haters, they gonna hate”. The lawsuit contends that Swift’s massive 2014 hit “Shake It Off” infringed on the songwriters’ copyright by including similar lyrics in its chorus.
The district court judge dismissed the lawsuit, saying that “the concepts of players, haters and player-haters” was culturally “banal” back in 2001, not new or creative. He also said the lyrics in question were too short to be considered original and worthy of protections under the Copyright Act. However, the three-judge federal appeals court panel reversed the lower court’s decision, claiming that the lyrics’ alleged lack of originality was not established by the lawsuit or by the district court judge’s ruling. As a result, the claim will get another round in court. Over the last several months, several popular singers and musicians have faced legal action over plagiarism claims, including Cardi B, Lady Gaga, Lil Nas X and Nicki Minaj.
Creative artists dealing with copyright infringement claims over audio recordings, lyrics or other intellectual property matters might wish to consult with an attorney about their situation. The attorney might be able to resolve the dispute before it goes to trial. If litigation is required, legal counsel could represent the client’s interests in court and do everything possible to obtain a favorable outcome on their behalf.