Taylor Swift has won the right to use the phrase “haters gonna hate” as many times as she wants.
A lawsuit accusing Swift of stealing lyrics for her song Shake It Off was thrown out on Tuesday by a U.S. judge, who ruled the phrases in question were not sufficiently original to merit copyright protection.
In September, songwriters Sean Hall and Nathan Butler said in a copyright infringement lawsuit filed in federal court in Los Angeles that Swift’s song was based on the phrase “players, they gonna play, and haters, they gonna hate,” that they coined for a 2001 song Playas Gon’ Play by R&B girl group 3LW.
The Swift lyrics in question from her 2014 song Shake It Off were, “the players gonna play, play, play, play, play, and the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.”
Lawyers for Swift asked judge Michael Fitzgerald in January to dismiss the case.
“The lynchpin of this entire case is thus whether or not the lyrics ‘Playas, they gonna play, and haters, they gonna hate’ are eligible for protection,” he wrote.
“In order for such short phrases to be protected under the Copyright Act, they must be more creative than the lyrics at issue here,” Fitzgerald ruled, according to court papers.
Hall and Butler did not allege Swift’s song stole musical elements, the judge said, and phrases about players and haters existed in pop culture before 2001.
“In the early 2000s, popular culture was adequately suffused with the concepts of players and haters to render the phrases ‘playas… gonna play’ or ‘haters… gonna hate,’ standing on their own, no more creative than ‘runners gonna run’; ‘drummers gonna drum’; or ‘swimmers gonna swim,’” Fitzgerald wrote.
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Fitzgerald continued: “The concept of actors acting in accordance with their essential nature is not at all creative; it is banal.”
“In short, combining two truisms about playas and haters, both well-worn notions as of 2001, is simply not enough,” the judge wrote.
“In sum, the lyrics at issue … are too brief, unoriginal, and uncreative to warrant protection under the Copyright Act,” he wrote.
Fitzgerald gave Hall and Butler the option to file a revised lawsuit.
Gerard Fox, Hall and Butler’s lawyer, said he had no intention to file an amended complaint and would appeal Fitzgerald’s ruling to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
“He cannot make himself an expert in the music industry, I’m sorry it’s actually embarrassing,” Fox said.
Fox said that Fitzgerald made a mistake by assessing the originality of the lyrics for himself, instead of relying on experts.
— With files from Reuters