Judge: Taylor Swift’s lyrics are too ‘banal’ to infringe on anyone’s copyright

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I absolutely loathe stories about copyrights and copyright lawsuits. On one side, most of the lawsuits are pretty junky and they deserve to be thrown out. On the other side, when there is a rare valid copyright dispute, it takes forever to actually come to any kind of conclusion. On a gossip level, it’s like watching paint dry. Taylor Swift has been involved with an unknown number of copyright disputes. Some were lawsuits or copyright-infringement notices she served to people she claimed were copying her lyrics or music. She’s also been accused of infringing on other artists’ copyrights. Songwriters Sean Hall and Nathan Butler sued her last year because they claimed her song lyrics in “Shake It Off” infringed on their lyrical copyright from the song “Playas Gon’ Play.” Hall and Butler did not win their suit, but at least the whole incident did provide us with some excellent judge-shade.

Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald has dismissed a copyright lawsuit against Taylor Swift for her 1989 track, “Shake It Off”. In his ruling, Judge Fitzgerald delivered pointed criticism about the song while ruling that the lyrics she allegedly stole from the 3LW’s 2001 hit “Playas Gon’ Play” were too “banal” to be entitled to protection. Songwriters Sean Hall and Nathan Butler sued Swift last year, claiming her song stole their lyrics, “Playas, they gonna play/ And haters, they gonna hate.” On the chorus of “Shake It Off”, Swift sings, “Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play/ And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate (haters gonna hate).”

Although short phrases are historically immune from copyright claims, Hall and Butler argued that their lyrics were “sufficiently creative” enough to warrant protection. Judge Fitzgerald disagreed, ruling that “the allegedly infringed lyrics are short phrases that lack the modicum of originality and creativity required for copyright protection.” He added that “players, haters, and player haters” were already ingrained in American pop culture by 2001.

Here’s the specific quote from Fitzgerald’s ruling: “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.’ The concept of actors acting in accordance with their essential nature is not at all creative; it is banal. The allegedly infringed lyrics are short phrases that lack the modicum of originality and creativity required for copyright protection.”

[From Consequence of Sound]

“Banal” is a great word. We should use it more, because so much of pop culture is banal. Taylor Swift is lyrically banal. This lawsuit was a legal banality. But the whole thing has probably given Taylor some more “ideas” for future lyrics: swimmers gonna swim, drummers gonna drum, idiots gonna idiot, smarmers gonna smarm, lovers gonna love, geese gonna fly, and on and on.

Meanwhile, enjoy this cheeseball little blurb from Star Magazine:

Ed Sheeran’s fiancee Cherry Seaborn isn’t afraid to tell Ed’s longtime BFF Taylor Swift that she won’t be performing at their upcoming wedding in Italy.

“Taylor immediately offered up her services the minute she heard they got engaged,” spills a source close to Sheeran. But Ed’s bride had another collaborator in mind: Beyonce!

“If wanting Beyonce to sing at her wedding make Cherry a Bridezilla, then so be it,” snickers the source. “But Ed’s terrified of crossing Taylor.”

[From Star Magazine, print edition]

Who would you rather listen to at your wedding, Taylor Swift or Beyonce? You could offer me Tay-Tay live versus a Beyonce CD and I’m still going to choose Beyonce. Why would you want to dance at your WEDDING to a Taylor Swift song?

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Photos courtesy of WENN.

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30 Responses to “Judge: Taylor Swift’s lyrics are too ‘banal’ to infringe on anyone’s copyright”

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  1. Digital Unicorn says:


    • C says:

      “idiots gonna idiot, smarmers gonna smarm, lovers gonna love, geese gonna fly, and on and on.” I laughed out loud this part 😂😂😂😂😂😂

      • Raina says:

        People can be similar in the tone, but I can usually identify the difference. To my knowledge. Long story short: I ended up leaving my cell somewhere and didn’t log out/close certain sites, including this one lol, and had my fb automatically logged into with no password, or any password to use my cell in general, for that matter (I am an idiot and have since corrected all of that!!) …so some teenagers of a friend decided to have some fun with my comments and fb before I’d even realized it. And it took a bit. Luckily, people who knew me or knew my “tone” so to speak, suspected it wasn’t me. Point is, I think it’s fairly easy to tell who is who and what is what often enough. Unless, of course, that particular song or whatever is banal lol.
        I used to like some of Swift’s lyrics before it became, in my opinion, too generic and redundant. Still, I think I’d rather her over Beyonce in a wedding I’ll never have. Only because Beyonce irritates me more and it’s not really like Bey is a writer. For saying that, I should probably go into witness protection.
        My short story was long after all. Sorry.

  2. A Croatian says:

    As a musician, I would like to meet this judge and thank him, because he put in words what I couldn’t, and that is – not every musician is a musician.
    I am so impressed with his elaboration!

    • milla says:

      Amen! Also, i just wanna laugh at her face now. It is mean, but she’s just a pop star. And we all know it is all fabricated.

  3. grabbyhands says:


    No, but all joking aside-while I don’t think El DIabla would have any problem trying to bogart anyone’s lyrics for her own use, the judge made the right call.

  4. Lolo86lf says:

    I wouldn’t want either one of those divas singing live at my wedding. Their massive egos would undermine my wedding. I would consider playing a couple of their songs from a CD though. Now Ed Sheeran yes, he can sing live at my wedding, that would be such a treat.

    • AnnaKist says:

      I came on to say that if either Swift or Beyonce were booked to sing at my wedding, I would be giving my own wedding a miss.

      • Ankhel says:

        Beyonce would probably turn up in some ginormous mermaid dress, and condescend to pat your hand and face while literally keeping all the spotlight on herself. Lol.

        Which, you know, whatever makes the bride happy.

  5. Nicole says:

    The shade of it all. LOL
    and ed you’re not marrying taylor…there’s only one woman you should be afraid of disappointing and its the girl you put a rock on her finger.

  6. Huckle says:

    This was directed at 3LW’s lyrics as well. Apparently they aren’t great lyricists either.

  7. Hh says:

    Well, technically… isn’t the judge shading both Taylor and the plaintiffs?

    Also, who’s responsible for giving her feedback about her hair? It’s been looking terrible for YEARS now. I mean, not the worst haircut I’ve seen, but definitely not the hair that belongs to someone worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

  8. Ugh says:

    Yeah. I can’t see Beyonce as a wedding singer.

    • manda says:

      right? I was thinking that is something she probably wouldn’t do unless she was personal friends, and maybe she is?

  9. monette says:

    Eddie, u little mousy mouse, u in danger bro!
    He knows what The Snake does to traitors, he better be scared.

    Beyonce: I don’t know him.

  10. littlemissnaughty says:

    I do love that the judge burned both parties. It’s a skill.

  11. marianne says:

    Why can’t both women sing? I mean Taylor will pale in comparison to Beyonce, but shes a close friend of Ed’s and if he wants her there and or wants her to sing he should get a say in it as well.

  12. MI6 says:

    The 🐍 is banal. It is law.

  13. Mimz says:

    Just a quick comment on they Bey vs Tay, I disagree that Bey would try to steal the brides thunder. In every wedding pic we saw of hers, she seems to make a conscious effort to be elegant yes but not overtaking the brides shine.
    Even in Selena ‘s wedding, she was pretty yes but mostly kept to herself. We still talked about Serena!

    About Tay… lol Banal is the perfect word.

  14. Millie says:

    What I wouldn’t give to read that judge’s Internet comments on message boards.

    Also, points to Ed’s fiancee. If she’s trying to get Taylor out of Ed’s life, more power to her.

  15. Shannon says:

    I wouldn’t consider it a burn – he’s referring to that particular lyric “players gonna play/haters gonna hate” and it is banal and not original. He wasn’t referring to Taylor Swift’s entire musical catalogue or even that one particular song in it’s entirety. He may very well find all of her music banal, or he may not idk, but that’s not what he was saying here. As for Taylor v. Beyonce, I like them both equally, possibly Beyonce a little bit more. But does Beyonce even do weddings? If this little blurb is even true, it seems kind of like a bitch move straight out the gate – why not let your fiance’s friend perform, especially if she’s doing it for free (which I imagine she would). Even if Beyonce agreed to do it, unless she’s friends with them I’d bet it’d be expensive af.

  16. DiligentDiva says:

    Beyonce is a better vocalist and performer, but Taylor’s a better lyricist. Honestly, the only lyrics from Beyonce I enjoyed came from Lemonade (Which is where she poured half her soul into the music) her vocals and her performance is another thing. Beyonce can always really electrify a crowd her Superbowl performance is my favorite one, and her vocals are always on point. Taylor’s vocals can be very weak at times but her lyrics can cut you deep (Which isn’t surprising she was originally a country singer, that’s what they focus on). I think the 1989 tour was where Taylor peaked in terms of performance, but idk about vocals, I think she was better when she was singing country music, I think it was a challenge for her to change from country style vocals to pop style vocals. From what I’ve heard her sing of Reputation it sounds like she’s gotten a vocal coach and has worked on them a bit, which makes me hopeful for the tour.
    Each has their strengths and weaknesses in my opinion,

  17. Lilith says:

    Ahahaha! The SHADE. I’m so here for it.

  18. Hazel says:

    I took the judge’s ruling indicating the 2001 lyrics were banal, & that Taylor didn’t improve upon them.

  19. Bread and Circuses says:

    I’d probably choose Taylor for my wedding, to be honest, because if you invite Beyonce to your wedding, you will NOT be the queen of the evening. There is no dress white enough or sparkly enough to outshine Beyonce.

  20. TPOE says:

    Not surprising. Her lyrics, like her ideas and her public comments are big piles of nothing. She’s vapor. Passing through. Trying to make as much cash off of her deplorable fans as she can before she disappears into the nothingness from whence she came leaving absolutely nothing of value behind.

  21. Sarah says:

    Well the Judge not only called Swift’s lyrics banal but also the plaintiffs’ lyrics. And he is talking about the used lines from a linguistic POV. This statement isn’t nearly as full of shade towards Swift as Quincy Jones’ one from recently. Sorry for the disappointment.

  22. Jingle says:

    The important part is that Taylor won the lawsuit and does not have to payout million of dollars. “Shake it off” was a huge hit and made tons of money. Had they won they would have likely won millions and it would have been a negative hit to her “reputation”.

    There is no drama between Taylor, Ed or Cherry. Beyonce would not perform at his wedding (for free) for the simple fact Beyonce is not his friend (unless he made a deal when she did “perfect”). Beyonce wanted a #1 song and Ed was the only way she could get one (it was closing in on ten years since her last #1). She made him give her a writing credit for a song she clearly did not write. So maybe the trade off was you perform at my wedding I’ll give you a writing credit for a song already written.

    Taylor gave Ed a shot when he was a nobody. Before he had #1 singles, before he was a Grammy winner. He opened for her tour and build a strong, solid US fan base. She collab with him in song before Grammy wins and #1 songs called “thinking out loud” and “shape of you”.

    In summary, they’d be stupid to ruin a real friendship so I doubt any of that is true. Plus Taylor also loves Beyonce and would likely want to sit back and watch her perform.