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A copyright suit against Taylor Swift from two songwriters accusing her of lifting the lyrics to her 2014 hit single “Shake It Off” has been dropped a month before trial.
A federal judge dismissed the case after the two sides agreed to resolve the suit in a settlement, according to court documents filed on Monday in California federal court. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.
Representatives for Swift didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Songwriters Sean Hall and Nathan Butler sued Swift in 2018, claiming she stole the lyrics to her song about players playing and haters hating from 3LW’s 2001 hit “Playas Gon‘ Play.”
The girl group sang “Playas, they gonna play / And haters, they gonna hate,” while Swift sang “[T]he players gonna play, play, play, play, play and the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.”
The deal comes a month before trial was scheduled to start on Jan. 17 in the dispute that ran for over five years.
The case swung on whether the lyrics from Hall and Butler are protectable under federal copyright law. U.S. District Judge Michael Fitzgerald found they weren’t, concluding that the allegedly infringing lines are “short phrases that lack the modicum of originality and creativity” required to allege copyright infringement. He dismissed the suit.
“[B]y 2001, American popular culture was heavily steeped in the concepts of players, haters, and player haters,” Fitzgerald wrote. “The concept of actors acting in accordance with their essential nature is not at all creative; it is banal.”
But a federal appeals court revived the case, concluding that the federal judge’s dismissal was 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,” the three judge panel wrote. “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.”
An attorney for Hall and Butler didn’t respond to a request for comment.
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