Taylor Swift's song "Shake It Off" debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 100 charts in September 2014 and stayed on the chart for 50 consecutive weeks. The tune won the People's Choice Award for Favorite Song in 2015, sold over nine million copies, and was nominated for three Grammys. In addition, the video to the song has pulled in over 2.3 billion views since 2014.
With the staggering success of Swift's song, it's not surprising that the hitmaker is a prime target for lawsuits, which is why she is facing the possibility of more time in a courtroom if the songwriters behind 3LW's 2001 song "Playas Gon' Play" have their way. Sean Hall and Nathan Butler, who wrote the lyrics to the song, claim that Taylor Swift took a portion of their lyrics to use for "Shake It Off":
The playas gon' play
Them haters gonna hate
Whether or not the lyrical similarity is a coincidence, this isn't the first time that a songwriter has tried to get a piece of pie with Swift's blockbuster hit. In 2014, Jesse Braham sued the singer for $42 million, claiming she had lifted the lyrics for "Shake It Off" from his song, "Haters Gonna Hate." Braham said Swift's hook was the same as his, and without his song, hers would not exist.
A judge, however, didn't see Braham's point of view and dismissed his case, hilariously using some of Swift's own lyrics:
"At present, the Court is not saying that Braham can never, ever, ever get his case back in court. But, for now, we have got problems, and the Court is not sure Braham can solve them. As currently drafted, the Complaint has a blank space—one that requires Braham to do more than write his name. And, upon consideration of the Court's explanation ... Braham may discover that mere pleading Band-Aids will not fix the bullet holes in his case. At least for the moment, Defendants have shaken off this lawsuit."
Hall and Butler are suing Swift for the same verbiage, alleging that "the combination of playas/players playing along with hatas/haters hating may seem like common parlance today, however, in 2001 it was completely original and unique. Indeed, the combination had not been used in popular culture prior to plaintiffs' original use."
The songwriters contend that their lyrics count for 20% of Swift's song, and therefore, they are entitled to compensation — although the lawsuit did not specify an exact amount like Braham's.
It didn't take long for a representative for Taylor Swift to call the lawsuit an attempt to snatch a fistful of money:
"This is a ridiculous claim and nothing more than a money grab. The law is simple and clear. They do not have a case."
Kevin Rieffel, Chief Counsel for Patent Consulting Services at TechPats — who has written on the copyright issues surrounding the song — offers examples of artists that have used the similar phrasing in the past:
"Asking the court to acknowledge someone’s alleged ownership of such phrases would be akin to claiming ownership of 'c’est la vie,' 'that’s life,' or 'que sera' and eliminating them from every song."
If this lawsuit gets dismissed, perhaps Swift won't have to worry about future claims of infringement for awhile — at least, not for "Shake It Off."
Do you think Taylor Swift owes 3LW's songwriters for their lyrics, or is the case without merit? Sound off in the comments below!