Taylor Swift‘s legal team filed a motion in federal court on Wednesday (Jan. 3) asking a judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by songwriters Nathan Butler and Sean Hall in September over claims that Swift’s 2014 hit “Shake It Off” infringed on the copyright of their 2001 hit for girl group 3LW, “Playas Gon’ Play.”
“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 wrote in the motion filed in U.S. district court in the Central District of California. “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.”
In essence, Swift’s team argued that the phrase “playas gon’ play” amounts to a musical cliché and that it can’t be subject to copyright, citing previous court findings that short phrases can’t be copywritten while pointing to other uses of the words “players” and “haters” in other compositions, including Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 song “Dreams,” The Notorious B.I.G.’s 1997 hit “Playa Hater,” as well as tracks by Cypress Hill, OutKast, Luniz and Too Short.
“Plaintiffs are very specific about the lyrics allegedly copied, and their specificity establishes that they impermissibly rely on an uncopyrightable short phrase comprised of words they admit were commonplace before their musical composition,” read the motion, which referred to the phrases as “simply nouns and their corresponding verbs.”
The 3LW song features the chorus, “Playas, they gonna play, and haters, they gonna hate,” while Swift’s sings “Players gonna play, play, play, play, play, and haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate” in her song.
A spokesperson for Swift had no comment at press time. See a copy of the motion below.