I absolutely loathe stories about copyrights and copyright lawsuits. On one side, most of the lawsuits are pretty junky and they deserve to be thrown out. On the other side, when there is a rare valid copyright dispute, it takes forever to actually come to any kind of conclusion. On a gossip level, it’s like watching paint dry. Taylor Swift has been involved with an unknown number of copyright disputes. Some were lawsuits or copyright-infringement notices she served to people she claimed were copying her lyrics or music. She’s also been accused of infringing on other artists’ copyrights. Songwriters Sean Hall and Nathan Butler sued her last year because they claimed her song lyrics in “Shake It Off” infringed on their lyrical copyright from the song “Playas Gon’ Play.” Hall and Butler did not win their suit, but at least the whole incident did provide us with some excellent judge-shade.
Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald has dismissed a copyright lawsuit against Taylor Swift for her 1989 track, “Shake It Off”. In his ruling, Judge Fitzgerald delivered pointed criticism about the song while ruling that the lyrics she allegedly stole from the 3LW’s 2001 hit “Playas Gon’ Play” were too “banal” to be entitled to protection. Songwriters Sean Hall and Nathan Butler sued Swift last year, claiming her song stole their lyrics, “Playas, they gonna play/ And haters, they gonna hate.” On the chorus of “Shake It Off”, Swift sings, “Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play/ And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate (haters gonna hate).”
Although short phrases are historically immune from copyright claims, Hall and Butler argued that their lyrics were “sufficiently creative” enough to warrant protection. Judge Fitzgerald disagreed, ruling that “the allegedly infringed lyrics are short phrases that lack the modicum of originality and creativity required for copyright protection.” He added that “players, haters, and player haters” were already ingrained in American pop culture by 2001.
Here’s the specific quote from Fitzgerald’s ruling: “In the early 2000s, popular culture was adequately suffused with the concepts of players and haters to render the phrases ‘playas… gonna play’ or ‘haters… gonna hate’, standing on their own, no more creative than ‘runners gonna run’; ‘drummers gonna drum’; or ‘swimmers gonna swim.’ The concept of actors acting in accordance with their essential nature is not at all creative; it is banal. The allegedly infringed lyrics are short phrases that lack the modicum of originality and creativity required for copyright protection.”
“Banal” is a great word. We should use it more, because so much of pop culture is banal. Taylor Swift is lyrically banal. This lawsuit was a legal banality. But the whole thing has probably given Taylor some more “ideas” for future lyrics: swimmers gonna swim, drummers gonna drum, idiots gonna idiot, smarmers gonna smarm, lovers gonna love, geese gonna fly, and on and on.
Meanwhile, enjoy this cheeseball little blurb from Star Magazine:
Ed Sheeran’s fiancee Cherry Seaborn isn’t afraid to tell Ed’s longtime BFF Taylor Swift that she won’t be performing at their upcoming wedding in Italy.
“Taylor immediately offered up her services the minute she heard they got engaged,” spills a source close to Sheeran. But Ed’s bride had another collaborator in mind: Beyonce!
“If wanting Beyonce to sing at her wedding make Cherry a Bridezilla, then so be it,” snickers the source. “But Ed’s terrified of crossing Taylor.”
[From Star Magazine, print edition]
Who would you rather listen to at your wedding, Taylor Swift or Beyonce? You could offer me Tay-Tay live versus a Beyonce CD and I’m still going to choose Beyonce. Why would you want to dance at your WEDDING to a Taylor Swift song?
Photos courtesy of WENN.