An appeals court has ruled against a judge’s order to dismiss a copyright lawsuit against Taylor Swift and her hit song, “Shake It Off” – arguing instead that a jury should make the final decision, court papers show.
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Swift was slapped with the suit in September of 2018 by songwriters Sean Hall and Nathan Butler, who claimed the 2014 hit took from their 2001 song, “Playas Gon’ Play,” which was performed by pop group 3LW.
Specifically, the pair argued “Shake it Off” “illegally copied a six-word phrase and a four-part lyrical sequence” from their song. But District Judge Michael Fitzgerald squashed the case in February of last year, ruling the phrases “playas gonna play” and “haters gonna hate” were not unique to Hall’s and Butler’s song, Variety reported.
“By 2001, American popular culture was heavily steeped in the concepts of players, haters, and player haters,” Fitzgerald wrote at the time. “The concept of actors acting in accordance with their essential nature is not at all creative; it is banal.”
The pair appealed the decision and prevailed, with a panel of appeals court judges ruling on Monday that decision shouldn’t be left up to a single person. Swift's attorneys did not immediately respond to FOX Business' request for comment on Tuesday.
“Originality, as we have long recognized, is normally a question of fact,” the three-judge panel wrote in the Monday decision. “Because the absence of originality is not established either on the face of the complaint or through the judicially noticed matters, we reverse the district court’s dismissal.”
Hall & Butler's attorney, Gerard Fox, said Tuesday he was pleasantly surprised by the decision, which he called "very, very important."
"This is a community of artists that should respect each other," he told FOX Business. "I would certainly hope that Taylor Swift would take a moment and think about giving these men some credit. I would love to see her start a new trend of respecting artists."
Swift is not the first musician to be hit with a copyright suit. Last year, a jury ruled that pop star Katy Perry’s 2013 billboard hit “Dark Horse” copied 2009 Christian rap song “Joyful Noise.” In 2015, musicians Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams and affiliated parties were ordered to pay $7.4 million after a jury found they plagiarized Marvin Gaye’s 1977 song, “Got to Give it Up.”
This story was updated to include statements from attorney Gerard Fox.