Just two weeks after a judge declared that the “unprecedented” copyright case against Taylor Swift for allegedly using the lyrics to the 2001 3LW hit “Playas Gon’ Play” in her own 2014 hit “Shake It Off” could move forward, the singer has again filed a motion to dismiss the case, with her attorneys warning of dire consequences for the music business at large should it proceed. Billboard reported the filing, in which Davis Wright Tremaine LLP attorney Peter Anderson wrote, “Plaintiffs could sue everyone who writes, sings, or publicly says ‘players gonna play’ and ‘haters gonna hate.’ To permit that is unprecedented and cheats the public domain.”
The case, which was filed in 2017 by 3LW’s songwriters Sean Hall and Nathan Butler, asserts that the use of the refrain “players gonna play, play, play, play, play and the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate” infringes upon Hall and Butler’s previous use of “playas, they gonna play, and haters, they gonna hate.” Because the usage of both phrases — often in conjunction, as they are seen in both songs — is so common, Swift’s lawyers previously argued that the case should be thrown out and won, only for the plaintiffs to successfully reopen the case and U.S. District Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald to refuse their initial motion on December 9, saying, “Even though there are some noticeable differences between the works, there are also significant similarities in word usage and sequence/structure.”
In the new filing, Anderson and co. argue Fitzgerald failed to apply an “extrinsic test” to the ruling, filtering out material that isn’t covered under copyright laws before comparing two works. Again, the phrases “playas gonna play” and “haters gonna hate” are not covered by copyright since they are commonly used phrases in the public domain. “The presence of versions of the two short public domain statements and two other tautologies in both songs … simply does not satisfy the extrinsic test,” argued Swift’s lawyers.
So, it looks like the judge will have one more chance to look at the case before it proceeds to trial, with seemingly all past and future references to players playing and haters hating hanging in the balance. Stay tuned for more updates.