Judge Denies Taylor Swift Petition To Have Songwriters Pay Her Legal Bill For ‘Shake It Off’ Copyright Lawsuit


Coming out on top of a legal dispute does not entitle Taylor Swift to fees paid. A California judge has ruled against the singer's petition.

Haters Gonna Hate

The move came following a lawsuit brought against Swift for her hit song "Shake It Off." Songwriters Sean Hall and Nathan Butler claimed she lifted the lyrics "playas gonna play" and "haters gonna hate" from their own song "Playas Gon' Play."

The track in question was written for girl group 3LW and released in 2001. Although not as massive a hit as "Shake It Off," which sold 9 million copies, the track featured on an album that was certified platinum, so it did sell more than a million copies and was reasonably well-known as a result.

Although U.S. District Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald ultimately ruled in Swift's favor, he also noted that copyright does indeed protect short phrases in certain instances. Fitzgerald argued that there is no blanket rule in relation to short phrases and copyright infringement.

Seeking Reparations

The two men brought the suit against Swift back in September, suing her for $30 million. It was dismissed with prejudice on March 2, leading Swift herself to seek $75,000 in attorney's fees from the songwriters in question.

Fitzgerald denied the "Delicate" singer's request, and took a moment to point out that she shouldn't be so dismissive about claims she might be making against someone else someday.

"Be careful what you wish for. There are very few recording artists, if any, who have a greater interest than Ms. Swift in a robust regime of copyright law," he cautioned in his 10-page decision.

The judge was also careful to note that the suit being brought against Swift wasn't all that crazy in the first place.

"There are at least colorable arguments on both sides," he advised.

Fitzgerald also pointed out that, in asking the plaintiffs to cover Swift's legal bills, she was going against the idea that creatives should be able to build on each other's work.

By demanding the plaintiffs pay her legal fees, Swift was setting a dangerous precedent against creative endeavors.

Not Buying It

Swift's team also tried to argue that they were claiming the fees as a deterrent to other future, frivolous lawsuits. The judge plainly dismissed this claim, in no uncertain terms.

"Put more bluntly, if the court's only choice were between awarding fees to defendants based on the complaint or fees to plaintiffs based on the motion, the court would without hesitation award the fees to plaintiffs," he said.

Fitzgerald also noted that Swift's legal bills were more reasonable for someone in her financial position. He pointed to the sales of "Shake It Off," and the hit album on which it features, 1989, stating that sales in excess of 10 million copies mean Swift and her team are more than capable of paying $75,000 in legal fees.

Swift is no stranger to the courtroom, having recently won a symbolic $1 after being sued by a radio DJ for slander. The singer claimed he grabbed her behind during a meet-and-greet. She asked for $1 in damages when he sued her and, when the case went to court, won out in the end.

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