NULL ‘I Knew You Were Trouble’: Did Taylor Swift Steal Music? – Legal News Organization
'I Knew You Were Trouble': Did Taylor Swift Steal Music?

‘I Knew You Were Trouble’: Did Taylor Swift Steal Music?

There’s a good chance that Taylor Swift may be in danger.

Two songwriters filed a lawsuit against Swift for alleged plagiarism, alleging that Swift stole their song as well as the lyrics, and then utilized them for her Grammy-nominated hit song, “Shake It Off.” In September. 12 Taylor was told that the judge could not let the case go ahead of the trial.

Did Taylor actually steal ideas from the two song writers? A jury made up of similar to you will be able to decide.

“Playas Gon Play” v. “Shake It Off”

The year 2001 was the time Sean Hall and Nathan Butler wrote a song together “Playas Going Play.” In May of 2001, the popular band 3LW made it available for sale to the public as single. “Playas” was a huge hit immediately after release, spending months in the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It also appeared in video countdowns broadcast on MTV (back the days when there was music available on MTV).

The year was 2014. Taylor was a cowriter on the hit song “Shake It Off,” that she made available to the general public in August that year. “Shake It Off” came out at the top spot at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart, it remained there for 50 weeks and sold over 5 million digital copies by 2020. Her music video is watched by over 3.2 billion views on YouTube.

‘Sparks Fly’

In September of 2017, Hall and Butler sued Swift in a copyright lawsuit, asking for $43 million. They claimed that some of the lyrics in “Shake it Off” have a lot in common with the lyrics of “Playa.” The court dismissed the lawsuit and an appeals judge reinstated the case. In July 2020 Taylor unsuccessfully attempted to have the case to be dismissed yet again.

In the summer of 2021, Taylor was able to try a third time through a motion for summary judgement. The Court denied the motion declaring there were three issues that a jury could decide:

  • If the song’s music, its structure and the lyrics “Playa” are “original” and could be protected by copyright.
  • If yes, then what is the structure, music, and the lyrics of “Shake it Off” are “substantially identical” to the lyrics of “Playa.”

On September. 12th The judge declared in his bench that he was not going to review his decision and the matter would go through the trial.

“Call It What You Like’

Hall and Butler have a copyright claim on their music composition. In order to win, they need prove that they have copies of the work and show the fact that Taylor has violated their copyright. In order to do this they must prove that their work is “original” and also that the lyrics and music in the two pieces are “substantially identical.”

Hall and Butler admit the fact that back in 2001, when they composed “Playa,” the concept of their chorus was popular. However, they claim that the structure and the combination of the lyrics were their own and Taylor has copied their work.

‘Speak Now’

Listen to “Playa” as well as “Shake It Off.” For context, below is the side-by-side comparison of the two tracks which are in dispute:

Playas Go Play Shake It Off
Playas, they’re gon’ to play

They’ll have a hard time

Ballers, they’ll ball

Shot callers, they’re gonna phone

There’s nothing for it to do

Together with me and you

This is the way things are.

It’s just the way it is.
Because the players will play, play, and play. Play, have fun!

and the hateful ones will be have to hate, hate and hate, hate

Baby, I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake

Shake it off

Shake it off

Heartbreakers gonna break, break, break, break, break

The fakers will be fake, fake and fake counterfeit

Baby, I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake

Shake it off and shake it off.

So? Do you have a thought?

“The Very First Night’

Hall and Butler both have their share of battles to settle there. Taylor’s argument is that the melody as well as the lyrics to “Playa” are not unique which means they are not eligible for copyright protection. Hall and Taylor argue that the lyrics “Playas going to be played” and “Haters will hate you,” together with the order and the structure they are used in the chorus are all original. The copyright lies in the arrangement, but not the lyrics and tune.

This appears like it could be a close call. Hall and Butler have to convince jurors that their plan was unique back in 2001. The jurors might not even have been born back when they were in the midst of. Given the success of “Shake it Off” was and how popular the phrase “players are going to play/haters are going to love” has become a staple within the world of pop culture. It could be difficult to convince young people or Gen Z’ers that they have anything original in the arrangement, which could be protected copyrighted.

“You’re Sorry’

Say Hall and Butler win in their first bout. In order to win the next fight they must ask the jury to examine their music to Taylor’s in order in order to determine if they’re “substantially alike.” Hall and Butler argue they believe that Taylor used at the very least seven of the elements in their song that Taylor copied, such as the repetition in the lyrics, their parallels, as well as the grammar (e.g., “Playas, they’re gonna play” in contrast to. “Players going to be playing”).

As if they believed that the jury couldn’t discern for themselves, both Parties hired experts to help the jury evaluate their own work. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that both sides identified experts that backed their respective positions. The judge who heard the trial said it is for a jury determine if, on the basis of evidence that is contradictory and the fact that they are “substantially identical.”

We believe it’s a contest to the death. The jury will listen to the tracks and hear the views of those who claim to stand to be experts on music. We’re not certain what their opinion on the evidence is however, our instincts tell us that they’ll be convinced to believe what they can hear in their ears than by what persons, even though they’re considered experts, say regarding it.

‘End Game’

The trial is set to begin on January. 17th in 2023. There are a lot of stakes. Based on the huge success “Shake it Off” was, $43 million that is being sought for by Hall and Butler seems to be within the possibilities. Based on the different ways they sound, but we believe the two songs are different enough that Hall and Butler face a tough battle. Let’s see how it goes.

It’s not necessary to solve this on your own – Seek the help of a lawyer

A consultation with a lawyer could aid you in understanding your options and help you defend your rights. Browse our lawyer directory to locate a lawyer close to your home who will be able to assist.