Do you think one of the midnights Taylor Swift writes about on her forthcoming album was spent preparing to give testimony? When you’re the biggest pop star in the world, it’s fair to expect plenty of people to emerge from the woodwork looking for a piece of the pie. The latest is her battle with songwriters Sean Hall and Nathan Butler, who have been arguing for years that Swift’s “Shake It Off” cribbed from their track “Playas Gon’ Play” for the group 3LW.
According to Rolling Stone, Swift had filed a motion requesting the court would cast aside the lawsuit, but “The motion for reconsideration is denied,” Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald ruled in a hearing on Monday. “I don’t think it meets the standard for reconsideration, and even if it did, and I was approaching it again on the merits, I still think there’s a genuine issue of material fact in part because of the expert opinion.”
Interestingly, Fitzgerald is the same judge who originally dismissed this case back in 2018, opining that the lyrics (which are, again, “the players gonna play” and “the haters gonna hate”) were “too brief, unoriginal and uncreative to warrant protection under the Copyright Act.” However, an appeals court sided with Hall and Butler on the basis that “‘originality’ was a question of fact that should be decided by jurors, not judges,” per Rolling Stone.
Hall and Butler have argued that while the specific phrasing of the lyrics “may seem like common parlance today,” they were “completely original and unique” when the single dropped in 2001. This claim was bolstered by the fact that expert testimony found “‘substantial similarity’ between the two songs’ lyrical phrasing and sequential structure.”
So, despite the fact that the notion of players playing existed long before a flash-in-the-pan girl group sang about it, and despite Swift’s team’s dire warnings that this precedent “cheats the public domain” and puts everyone who repeats the phrase “players gonna play” at risk, the trial will move forward. Fitzgerald also declined to postpone the January 17, 2023 trial date, so instead of enjoying her scandalously out-of-date Christmas lights, Swift will instead be stuck in court.