Taylor Swift filed a declaration yesterday (Aug. 8) in regards to a 2017 lawsuit alleging that she stole the lyrics to “Shake It Off” from 3LW’s 2001 song “Playas Gon’ Play,” as Billboard first reported. Swift has denied the allegation, stating, “The lyrics to ‘Shake It Off’ were written entirely by me.” In her sworn declaration, Swift said that until learning of 3LW’s claim in 2017, she had never heard of “Playas Gon’ Play” or the group.
In the motion, Swift claims that she had heard the phrase in dispute, “haters gonna hate” in “many songs, films, and other works,” before penning her chart-topping 2017 single. Swift said she even owned an Urban Outfitters T-shirt with the phrase printed on it that she wore during a live performance in 2013:
In writing the lyrics, I drew partly on experiences in my life and, in particular, unrelenting public scrutiny of my personal life, “clickbait” reporting, public manipulation, and other forms of negative personal criticism which I learned I just needed to shake off and focus on my music. With “Shake It Off,” I wanted to provide a comedic, empowering approach to helping people feel better about negative criticism through music, dance, and the personal independence enabling one to just shake off the negative criticism.
The lyrics to “Shake It Off” also draw from commonly used phrases and comments heard throughout my life. Prior to writing “Shake It Off,” I had heard the phrases “players gonna play” and “haters gonna hate” uttered countless times to express the idea that one can or should shrug off negativity. 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. 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 drew on those commonly used player and hater phrases in creating the lyrics “Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play / And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.”
I also recall hearing similar player and hater phrases in many songs, films, and other works prior to “Shake It Off.” For example, I was present at the 2013 Country Music Awards and heard Eric Church perform his song “The Outsiders,” which includes the lyric “the player’s gonna play and a haters gonna hate.”
Taylor’s mother, Andrea Swift, backed up her daughter in her own statement, per Pitchfork, writing that she “carefully monitored both the television [Taylor] watched and the music she heard.” Andrea Swift went on to explain that the family had a shared computer, and “Taylor did not attend sleepovers at friends’ houses as a young girl because we lived on a farm until she was 10 years old and I always preferred having friends come over to our home.”
The songwriters responsible for filing the motion, Sean Hall and Nathan Butler, initially filed back in 2017, but the motion was dismissed by US District Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald in February 2018, who stated, “The allegedly infringed lyrics are short phrases that lack the modicum of originality and creativity required for copyright protection.” However, one year later, a federal appeals court reversed the ruling, claiming that the lyrics in “Playas Gon’ Play” were, in fact, creative enough to warrant copyright protection.
In December 2021, Judge Fitzgerald rejected Swift’s request to throw out the case, maintaining that there were “enough objective similarities” between the songs that would require a jury decision.
“It is, unfortunately, not unusual for a hit song to be met by litigants hoping for a windfall based on tenuous claims that their own song was copied,” Swift’s lawyer Peter Anderson wrote in the new motion. “But even against that background, Plaintiffs’ claim sticks out as particularly baseless.”
This isn’t the first time Swift has been accused of not writing her own music. You can revisit the Swift songwriting kerfuffle between her and Damon Albarn that kicked off 2022 here.
Read Swift’s complete declaration via Scribd.