U.S. Ninth Circuit - The FindLaw 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Judge Dismisses Copyright Case Against Taylor Swift

Everybody loves Taylor Swift songs, right?

The Grammy academy just waits for her next song to nominate for an award. Even random people break records singing and dancing to her tunes, like "Shake It Off."

So why did two songwriters sue her for copyright infringement over the song? Well, as Taylor's own lyrics suggest: haters gonna hate, hate, hate.

'Shake it Off'

Sean Hall and Nathan Butler wrote "Playas Gon' Play," which was a hit in 2001; Swift's "Shake It Off" came out 2014. The superstar's rep called the lawsuit, which was filed last year, a "money grab." A judge just dismissed it.

U.S. Judge Michael Fitzgerald said words like "players gonna play, play, play" and "haters gonna hate, hate, hate" cannot be copyrighted.

"The allegedly infringed lyrics are short phrases that lack the modicum of originality and creativity required for copyright protection," he wrote.

The judge has given the players a chance to amend the complaint, but he doubts the plaintiffs will get around the copyright problem.

'Extremely Skeptical'

When judges dismiss with leave to amend, the plaintiffs get at least one more bite of the apple. Fitzgerald said that's all they'll get in this case.

"While the Court is extremely skeptical that Plaintiffs will -- in a manner consistent with Rule 11 -- be able to rehabilitate their copyright infringement claim in an amended complaint, out of an abundance of forbearance it will give Plaintiffs a single opportunity to try," he said.

The songwriters have until Feb. 26 to amend their complaint. Swift's attorneys will, no doubt, reassert the argument that won the first time.

They are not claiming copyrights to the "play, play, play" or "hate, hate, hate" phrases. They are already in the public domain, the attorneys say, say, say.

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