Taylor Swift has responded to plagiarism accusations from two songwriters who claim her song Shake It Off is not an entirely original work.
The singer, 32, is being sued by songwriters Sean Hall and Nathan Butler, who claim that her 2014 hit Shake It lifted Off lines from their 2001 song Playas Gon’ Play, which was performed by the girl group 3LW.
In a sworn declaration seen by Billboard, Taylor has said she never stole any lyrics from the 2001 song and added that she had never even heard of the group who released it.
Speaking out: Taylor Swift has responded to plagiarism accusations from two songwriters who claim her song Shake It Off is not an entirely original work
She said: ‘Until learning about Plaintiffs’ claim in 2017, I had never heard the song Playas Gon’ Play and had never heard of that song or the group 3LW.
Taylor added that her parents ‘did not allow me to watch until I was about 13 years old. None of the CDs I listened to as a child, or after that, were by 3LW.
‘I have never heard the song ‘Playas Gon’ Play’ on the radio, on television, or in any film. The first time I ever heard the song was after this claim was made.’
The lines ‘players gonna play’ and ‘haters gonna hate’ are featured in similar versions on each song.
Claims: The singer, 32, is being sued by songwriters Sean Hall and Nathan Butler, who claim that her 2014 hit Shake It Off lifted lines from their 2001 song Playas Gon’ Play, which was performed by the girl group 3LW (3LW pictured in 20003)
The girl group 3LW were active in the late 90s and early 00s and were made up of Naturi Noughton and The Cheetah Girls stars Adrienne Bailon and Kiely Williams.
Playas Gon’ Play received significant airplay, hitting 86 on the Hot 100 chart.
But the track’s success was nothing compared to Taylor’s monster hit Shake It Off, which topped the Hot 100 and several other music charts after its 2014 release.
In her declaration, Taylor also discussed her inspiration for the lyrics of Shake It Off, which came from ‘public scrutiny’ of her life.
She said: ‘I recall hearing phrases about players play and haters hate stated together by other children while attending school in Wyomissing Hills, and in high school in Hendersonville.
Statement: In a sworn declaration seen by Billboard, Taylor has said she never stole any lyrics from the 2001 song and added that she had never even heard of the group who released it
‘These phrases were akin to other commonly used sayings like “don’t hate the playa, hate the game,” “take a chill pill,” and “say it, don’t spray it.” ‘
The case was previously dismissed by the judge, but the songwriters will get to make their case in court after a federal judge ruled the lawsuit will go to trial.
US District Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald allowed the case to go to trial after determining that a jury could find that she had plagiarized the lines.
He previously had determined that the similar lines were too ‘banal’ to count as copyright infringement.
He listed 13 songs from past decades, including Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams and The Notorious BIG’s Playa Hater, which included similar lines to back up his contention.
‘The concept of actors acting in accordance with their essential nature is not at all creative; it is banal,’ he wrote. ‘In sum, the lyrics at issue… are too brief, unoriginal, and uncreative to warrant protection under the Copyright Act.’
She said: ‘I have never heard the song ‘Playas Gon’ Play’ on the radio, on television, or in any film. The first time I ever heard the song was after this claim was made’
Hall and Butler — who wrote Playas Gon’ Play, with Hall also producing — originally filed their lawsuit in 2017, and after it was dismissed they filed an appeal requesting a jury trial and damages.
In 2019, a federal appeals court reversed the original decision, ruling that Fitzgerald should not have dismissed it, and the case was sent back to him.
This time, he refused Taylor’s request for a summary judgment, a ruling that she had not infringed on the songwriters’ copyright.
‘Even though there are some noticeable differences between the works, there are also significant similarities in word usage and sequence/structure,’ Fitzgerald wrote in his opinion, according to Billboard. ‘Although Defendants’ experts refute the implication that there are strongly substantial similarities, the Court is not inclined to overly credit their opinions here.’
He added that ‘the court cannot presently determine that no reasonable jurar could find substantial similarity of lyrical phrasing, word arrangement, or poetic structure between the two works.’
Not unique: The previously judge the case, saying the Playas Gon’ Play lines Swift was dismissed in similar form in earlier songs by Fleetwood Mac and The Notorious BIG (3LW pictured in 2001 in NYC)
Representatives for the Folklore singer haven’t yet issued a statement, but an attorney for Hall and Butler said the court ‘did the right thing.’
‘Our clients are finally moving closer to the justice they so richly deserve,’ said their attorney Marina Bogorad. ‘The opinion … is especially gratifying to them because it reinforces the idea that their creativity and unique expression cannot be misappropriated without any retribution.’
Although Taylor will now have to go to trial for the lawsuit, the judge hasn’t yet set a court date.
Taylor has weathered lawsuits over her song, including a 2015 suit from songwriter Jessie Braham, who contended that she had plagiarized from his 2013 song Haters Gonna Hate, though the case was dismissed.
The songstress was on the other side of the equation with Olivia Rodrigo’s smash-hit album Sour, which was released in May.
The actress and singer proactively listed Taylor as a co-writer on her song Deja Vu because of similarities it had to her 2019 song Cruel Summer, though Taylor had no involvement in crafting Olivia’s song.
Hit: In her declaration, Taylor discussed her inspiration for the lyrics of Shake It Off, which came from ‘public scrutiny’ of her life (pictured in 2021)