Haters gonna hate – Taylor Swift’s win in US copyright law suit

Reputed to be very protective of her rights, it was Taylor Swift’s turn to be taken to court for copyright infringement.

The case was against her 2014 song “Shake It Off”. This song was written in collaboration between Taylor Swift and two Swedish song writers who have written songs for some of the world’s biggest music stars.

The plaintiffs in this case are the songwriters Sean Hall and Nathan Butler. They filed a lawsuit for copyright infringement of their song “Playas Gon’ Play” from 2001. They claimed that the line “Cos the players gonna play, play, play, play, play, and the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate” from Swift’s song was a copy of their chorus “”Playas, they gonna play, and the haters, they gonna hate”.

It is quite common in copyright cases to refuse any right to short phrases on the basis that they lack sufficient creativeness.

In this case, the US judge Fitzgerald considered that in the American pop culture, the concepts of players and haters are not at all creative and are instead banal. Several songs have addressed this subject. He also added the lyrics were “no more creative than ‘runners gonna run’, ‘drummers gonna drum’; or ‘swimmers gonna swim’”.

In conclusion, the judge summarised that “the lyrics at issue (…) are too brief, unoriginal, and uncreative to warrant protection under the Copyright Act”.

The judge however, has allowed the plaintiffs until the 26 February to amend their arguments for further consideration.