Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” Lyrics Lawsuit Dropped After 5 Years – Billboard

Taylor Swift has reached a settlement with two songwriters to end a five-year copyright lawsuit claiming she stole the lyrics to “Shake It Off” from a previous song on “playas” and “haters” , resolving one of the biggest legal battles in the music industry without a trial or a decisive decision.

In a joint filing Monday in federal court in California, attorneys for Swift and her accusers — songwriters Sean Hall and Nathan Butler — asked a judge for an order “dismissing this action in its entirety.” Prior to the deal, a trial was due to begin in January.

The public documents did not include any specific terms of the apparent settlement, such as whether the money exchanged or the songwriting credits would be changed. Lawyers for both parties and a representative for Swift did not immediately return requests for comment.

The deal means a sudden end for a successful business which seemed to be heading towards the next landmark decision on music copyrights. Following legal battles over Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven,” the case against Swift ask fundamental questions on the limits of copyright protection, with his lawyers saying the accusers were trying to “deceive the public domain” by monopolizing the basic lyrical phrases.

Hall and Butler first filed a lawsuit in 2017, claiming that Swift stole her lyrics to “Shake It Off” from their “Playas Gon’ Play,” a song released by R&B group 3LW in 2001. This was no small accusation, given the song in question: “Shake It Off” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in September 2014 and ultimately spent 50 weeks on the chart, a mega hit even for one of music’s biggest stars.

In Hall and Butler’s song, the line was “playas, they gon’ play, and haters, they gon’ hate”; in Swift’s track, she sings, “Because the players will play, play, play, play, play and the haters will hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.” In their complaint, the duo said Swift’s lyrics were clearly copied from their song.

In the years that followed, Swift’s attorneys pushed several times to close the case, arguing that a short snippet of lyrics about “gamers” and “haters” was not creative or unique enough to be copyrighted. They cited more than a dozen previous songs that had used similar phrases, including Notorious BIG’s “Playa Hater” in 1997 and Ice-T’s “Don’t Hate the Player” in 1999.

Swift initially won a decision in 2018 dismissing the case on these grounds, with a federal judge ruling that Hall and Butler’s lyrics were unprotected because popular culture in 2001 had been “heavily steeped in the concepts of gamers, of haters and hateful gamers. But an appeals court later overturned that decision and a judge ruled last year that the case would be must be decided by jury trial.

“While there are notable differences between the works, there are also significant similarities in word usage and sequence/structure,” Judge wrote at the time.

More recently, Swift’s team again asked the judge to dismiss the case, this time making a new argument: that documents turned over during the case revealed that Hall and Butler voluntarily waived their right to sue in the first instance.

In a filing in August, Swift’s attorneys said the documents prove Hall and Butler granted their music publishers the exclusive right to sue for infringement of the song, meaning they did not have the legal status to do so. His lawyers said the couple even emailed their publishers – Sony Music Publishing and Universal Music Publishing Group, respectively – asking for permission to sue, but both companies denied the request.

“After their music publishers refused to award the plaintiffs the claim they are asserting in this action, their manager unsuccessfully pressured a U.S. congressman to have a House subcommittee intervene” , Swift’s attorneys alleged in the filing.

That motion was still pending when Monday’s settlement was filed.

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