“The lyrics to ‘Shake It Off’ were written entirely by me,” Taylor Swift said in a sworn declaration filed Monday (Aug. 8), according to Billboard. Taylor, 32, denied stealing the lyrics to her 2014 hit song from 3LW’s 2001 track, “Playas Gon’ Play,” and looked to end the ongoing lawsuit. “In writing the lyrics,” she said, “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.”
Sean Hall and Nathan Butler, the songwriters behind “Playas Gon’ Play,” filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Swift in 2017. In the 2001 song, the line goes “playas, they gonna play” and “haters, they gonna hate”; Swift’s song famously goes, “‘Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play and the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.” In her filing, she dismissed the copying allegations by saying the phrases were so simple that they were commonplace.
“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,” Swift wrote in her declaration. “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.'” She also wrote, per Billboard, that she heard the phrase in “many songs, films, and other works,” even citing a 2013 performance where she wore a t-shirt she bought from Urban Outfitters that had the saying – “haters gonna hate” – on the front.
“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 said. Taylor also wrote that she couldn’t have stolen from 3LW because, until the 2017 lawsuit, she didn’t know they existed. “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 wrote, adding that her parents “did not permit me to watch TRL until I was about 13 years old.
“None of the CDs I listened to as a child, or after that, were by 3LW,” she added. “I have never heard the song ‘Playas Gon’ Play’ on the radio, on television, or in any film. The first time I ever heard the song was after this claim was made.”
“Playas Gon’ Play” reached No. 81 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 56 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop charts in June 2001. “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 attorney, Peter Anderson, wrote in the documents. “But even against that background, Plaintiffs’ claim sticks out as particularly baseless.”
With Monday’s filing, Swift’s legal team is asking the judge to grant a summary judgment without the need for a trial. In 2018, a federal judge tossed out the case, stating that the lyrics to “Plays Gon’ Play” were not unique enough to be copyrighted since American culture is “heavily seeped in the concepts of players, haters, and player haters.” However, in 2019, a federal appeals court on the Ninth Circuit overturned the decision, saying it was dismissed prematurely.
In 2015, R&B artist Jesse Braham (stage name Jesse Graham) sued Taylor, saying she stole lyrics from his 2013 song, “Haters Gone Hate.” Jesse was looking for $42 million, but as The Richest noted, the lawsuit was dismissed for a fourth time in March 2022.