Taylor Swift and two songwriters who claim she lifted the lyrics to her hit “Shake It Off” have reached an agreement to end the copyright lawsuit, which has gone on for five years.
Both parties — Swift and songwriters Nathan Butler and Sean Hall — have asked a judge to “[dimiss] this action in its entirety.” The trial had been scheduled to begin next month.
The terms of the settlement were unclear from the filings, although the song’s writing credits were unchanged at the time of this article’s publication: Swift and original cowriters Max Martin and Shellback. A rep for Swift and the attorneys did not immediately respond to Variety’s requests for comment.
The two songwriters alleged that her 2014 smash infringed upon “Playas Gon’ Play,” a single from the group 3LW that peaked at No. 81 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2001. However, Swift wrote in a filing “Until learning about Plaintiffs’ claim in 2017, I had never heard the song ‘Playas Gon’ Play’ and had never heard of that song or the group 3LW.” She said she would have had little opportunity to hear it during its brief chart run, since her parents “did not permit me to watch (MTV’s hit countdown show) TRL until I was about 13 years old.”
Regardless of exposure to the tune, Swift and her attorney made the case that any similar phrasing is a result of the terminology being a part of everyday language, and was part of the popular vernacular before Sean Hall and Nathan Butler wrote “Playas Gon’ Play” around the turn of the century — at which point the hitmaker says she was hearing that language on the playground, not on the airwaves.
“I recall hearing phrases about players play and haters hate stated together by other children while attending school in Wyomissing Hills, and in high school in Hendersonville,” the Pennsylvania-bred star wrote. “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.’ … I was struck by messages that people prone to doing something will do it, and the best way to overcome it is to shrug it off and keep living.”
Swift noted that the phrasing was common enough that she had worn a T-shirt bearing the words “haters gonna hate” at a 2013 concert — one that was not custom-made, but purchased at Urban Outfitters.
The songs appear to have nothing in common except the core contested lines — with the 3LW tune repeating the lyrics “Playas, they gonna play / And haters, they gonna hate,” while Swift’s track uses the lines “‘Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play / And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate” as the linchpin of its chorus.
Still, that was enough for an earlier judge to overturn a prior dismissal of the lawsuit, which has been making its way through the courts for five years. It was set aside by a federal judge in 2018, but the suit was reinstated by an appeals court the following year. It’s due to be decided by a jury at an undetermined date in the future, but Swift attorney Peter Anderson is arguing that further evidence shows the plaintiffs’ claims are baseless enough to not warrant a trial.