Taylor Swift’s lawyers asked a federal judge on Wednesday to dismiss a copyright lawsuit, arguing that the phrase “players gonna play and haters gonna hate” is a musical cliché that should be in the public domain.
Swift was sued in September by Sean Hall and Nathan Butler, songwriters who wrote “Playas Gon’ Play” for the girl group 3LW in 2001.
The chorus of that song includes the phrase, “Playas, they gonna play, and haters, they gonna hate.” Hall and Butler contended that Swift’s 2014 hit “Shake It Off” infringed on their lyrics with its chorus: “Players gonna play, play, play, play, play, and haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.”
In their motion to dismiss, Swift’s lawyers contend that the twin concepts of players playing and haters hating is not subject to copyright.
“There can be no copyright protection in ‘playas, they gonna play and haters, they gonna hate,’ because it would impermissibly monopolize the idea that players will play and haters will hate,” Swift’s lawyers opined. “Plaintiffs’ claim to being the only ones in the world who can refer to players playing and haters hating is frivolous… Providing a copyright monopoly in the phrase would prevent others from sharing the idea that players play and haters hate.”
Swift’s lawyers also described the concepts of players playing and haters hating as “public domain clichés,” and argued that courts have consistently held that short phrases cannot be copyrighted. In a footnote, they also cited numerous other references to “players” and “haters” in pop culture, including the 1977 song “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac, which includes the lyric “Players only love you when they’re playing,” and “Playa Hater,” the 1997 Notorious B.I.G. song (“We have, the playas, and we have, the playa haters”).