Last fall, Songwriters Sean Hall and Nathan Butler filed a lawsuit accusing Taylor Swift of copyright infringement, claiming that the chorus of Swift’s mega hit “Shake It Off” ripped lines from “Playas Gonna Hate,” a 2001 track the duo co-wrote for which 3LW, features the lines “playas, they gonna play, and haters, they gonna hate.”
While short phrases are generally immune from any sort of copyright infringement, Hall and Butler claimed that their phrase was completely original, and in need of copyright protection. However, this week, Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald ruled that the simple combination of the lines “playas gonna play” and “haters gonna hate” is not enough grounds for any such protection.
In his official ruling, it became clear that Fitzgerald either thinks that the whole case is ridiculous, or just has a wonderfully adept sense of humor. “By 2001, American popular culture was heavily steeped in the concepts of players, haters, and player haters,” he wrote. “The concept of actors acting in accordance with their essential nature is not at all creative; it is banal..”
He continued by discussing the commonality of the concept of player hating:
It is hardly surprising that Plaintiffs, hoping to convey the notion that one should persist regardless of others’ thoughts or actions, focused on both players playing and haters hating when numerous recent popular songs had each addressed the subjects of players, haters, and player haters. In short, combining two truisms about playas and haters, both well-worn notions as of 2001, is simply not enough… In sum, the lyrics at issue -– the only thing that Plaintiffs allege Defendants copied -– are too brief, unoriginal, and uncreative to warrant protection under the Copyright Act.”
While the case was dismissed, there is room for it to be potentially reopened, should Hall and Butler provide new evidence that would depict undiscovered similarities between the two tracks. For reference, check out both tracks below and make a judgment for yourself.