Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” Copyright Lawsuit Has Ended After A 5-Year Fight

With both parties dropping the lawsuit, Swift’s next re-release might be 1989 (Taylor’s Version).

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CLEVELAND, OHIO - OCTOBER 30: Taylor Swift performs onstage during the 36th Annual Rock & Roll Hall ...
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On Dec. 12, just one day shy of her 33rd birthday, Taylor Swift reached an agreement with Sean Hall and Nathan Butler, the two songwriters who accused her in a 2017 copyright lawsuit of plagiarizing the chorus from her 2014 Grammy-nominated hit “Shake It Off” from former girl group 3LW’s 2001 song “Playas Gon’ Play.” Previously, on Aug. 8, Swift had filed a motion in response to the lawsuit, declaring that “Shake It Off” was “written entirely by me” and claiming she “had never heard the song ‘Playas Gon’ Play’ or the group 3LW” until the lawsuit.

In the joint agreement, both parties requested for the lawsuit to be dropped, asking a judge for an order “dismissing this action in its entirety” ahead of a planned trial in January, without giving any reason or explanation behind the sudden decision.

Hall and Butler alleged that Swift stole the lyrics “’Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play / And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate,” from their song for 3LW, which comprised of former Cheetah Girls members Adrienne Bailon and Kiely Williams, and actor Naturi Naughton. In her statement from August, Swift explained that while writing the song, she drew from many experiences in her life, from films and TV shows she’s watched to phrases she heard her classmates say in high school, and also public criticism she faced throughout her career.

“With ‘Shake It Off,’ I wanted to provide a comedic, empowering approach to helping people feel better about negative criticism,” she wrote. “Prior to writing ‘Shake It Off,’ I had heard the phrases ‘players gonna play’ and ‘haters gonna hate’ uttered countless times to express the idea that one can or should shrug off negativity. These phrases were akin to other commonly used sayings like ‘don’t hate the playa, hate the game,’ ‘take a chill pill,’ and ‘say it, don’t spray it.’”

As further proof, Swift noted that she wore an Urban Outfitters T-shirt that reads “haters gonna hate” during a 2013 live performance and had attended the 2013 Country Music Awards, where she heard Eric Church perform a song with the lyric “the player’s gonna play and a hater’s gonna hate.” The “All Too Well” singer also mentioned that her parents “did not permit [her] to watch TRL” until she was a teenager, meaning she wouldn’t have been exposed to 3LW that way in 2001. Her mom Andrea agreed in a statement, writing that she “carefully monitored both the television she watched and the music she heard” as a child.

The lawsuit was initially dismissed in 2018, but an appeals court resurrected it three years later, and a judge refused Swift’s request to throw out the case in December 2021, leaving the decision to a jury. No details about the settlement Swift reached with Hall and Butler were disclosed, including whether songwriting credits would be issued or any compensatory damages would be awarded. Swift, Hall, and Butler have yet to comment on the end of the case, but U.S. District Judge Michael Fitzgerald dismissed the case with prejudice, which means the lawsuit can no longer be revived.

While Hall and Butler kept pursuing legal action, the former members of 3LW (or at least the person running the group’s Twitter) made it clear that they support Swift and want nothing to do with the lawsuit. “Taylor is a talented artist who has made her mark!” the group’s unverified Twitter account wrote in a December 2021 statement. “3LW has nothing to do with this case.”

As pointed out by Swifties on Reddit, the lawsuit against “Shake It Off” might be preventing the release of 1989 (Taylor’s Version), which Swift has teased multiple times over the past year. She has unveiled three “Taylor’s Version” re-recordings from the album through films and TV shows, including her 2015 hit singles “Wildest Dreams” and “Bad Blood,” but has not released “Shake It Off (Taylor’s Version)” or given a release date for the accompanying album. Given that the trial is now off, here’s hoping that 1989 (Taylor’s Version) will no longer be held back.

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