‘Haters gon’ hate’ seems to be a pertinent lyric as pop star Taylor Swift faces another copyright lawsuit for her 2014 hit ‘Shake It Off’.
Swift has already succeeded in persuading a Californian judge that a copyright claim brought by R&B artist Jesse Braham should be thrown-out, on the basis that Braham did not provide enough factual evidence. However, it appears that the haters are gon’ keep hating, as Swift has recently faced another claim, lodged by songwriters Sean Hall and Nathan Butler.
Hall and Butler alleged that Swift had stolen lyrics from their 2000 song ‘Playas Gon’ Play’. The 2000 hit includes the lyrics, “Playas, they gonna play / And haters, they gonna hate”. The chorus to Swift’s single features the lines, ‘‘Cause the players gonna play, play, play / And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate’.
While short phrases are typically immune from copyright infringement claims, Hall and Butler argued that the combination of the phrases was enough to validate their claim.
Judge Fitzgerald granted Swift’s motion to dismiss the action. In his judgement, he ruled that, while there is a clear resemblance between the lyrics, the plaintiff must show a substantial similarity to copyright-protectable elements – and this is where the lawsuit fails. He focused on whether the lyrics were original enough to warrant protection under the U.S Copyright Act, and proceeded to criticise the claims and the ingenuity of either artists lyrics saying:
‘By 2001, American popular culture was heavily steeped in the concepts of players, haters and player-haters ... The concept of actors acting in accordance with their essential nature is not at all creative; it is banal.
The alleged infringed lyrics are short phrases that lack the modicum of originality and creativity required for copyright protection.’
Hall and Butler have been given one chance to appeal the decision and amend their complaint. It’s yet to be seen whether they’ll accept defeat – or re-enter their application with new evidence.