According to court documents obtained by EW, Swift will face trial regarding her 2014 hit's alleged similarities to 3LW's 2000 song 'Playas Gon' Play.'

Taylor Swift will attempt to shake off a copyright infringement case over her 2014 song "Shake It Off" in court, a judge has decided.

After Sean Hall and Nate Butler — songwriters who penned the 2000 tune "Playas Gon' Play" for the Kiely Williams, Naturi Naughton, and Adrienne Bailon-fronted girl group 3LW — originally alleged that Swift, Max Martin, and Shellback copied lyrics from their single during the creation of Swift's 1989 smash, court documents obtained Friday by EW indicate that U.S. District Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald denied the defendants' motion for a summary judgment.

The case will go to trial at an undetermined future date. The district court had previously dismissed the plaintiffs' complaint, only to be reversed by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals "on the ground that the lyrics, as alleged in the complaint, 'plausibly alleged originality.'"

"Alhough [sic] Defendants have made a strong closing argument for a jury, they have not shown that there are no genuine issues of triable fact such that Defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law," the court papers read, naming songwriters Swift, Max Martin, and Shellback as part of the defendant group that, among others, also includes Sony/ATV Music Publishing, and Swift's former label, Big Machine.

The plaintiffs first filed their copyright infringement complaint on Sept. 18, 2017. The defendants moved to dismiss the case on Jan. 3, 2018, noting that "the disputed lyrics lacked originality to enjoy copyright protection." After hearing oral arguments from both sides, the court dismissed the case.

Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift, in her first feature film role since 2019's Cats, appears in David O. Russell's highly secretive and previously untitled new movie, which has officially been dubbed 'Amsterdam'
| Credit: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

The case cited similarities in both songs' lyrics and structure, particularly the sequence of phrases in 3LW's song such as "playas, they gon' play" ("'cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play" in Swift's tune) followed by "and haters they gonna hate" ("and haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate" in "Shake It Off").

Friday's documents indicate that while the defendants "make some persuasive arguments with regard to why various factors of the respective musical and literary work analyses do objectively distinguish 'Playas' and 'Shake,'" there are still "numerous factors" that don't "eliminate the possibility that there is still a genuine dispute as to the potential substantial similarity between the lyrics and their sequential structure."

A representative for Swift declined to comment to EW on the judge's decision.

"Playas Gon' Play" dropped as part of 3LW's self-titled debut album in 2000, despite the song not being serviced as a single until April 2001. The recording reached No. 81 on the U.S. charts, and has been touted as one of the greatest girl group singles of all time by industry experts.

Though the plaintiffs allege that their lyrics bear similarities to Swift's, the song is far from the only recording to reference players playing and/or haters hating, notably 1997's "Playa Hater" by The Notorious B.I.G. and 1977's "Dreams" by Fleetwood Mac.

Swift's "Shake It Off" has sold roughly 9 million units to date after debuting atop the Billboard Hot 100 upon its initial release, making it one of her most successful songs to date, and this is not the first time she has faced allegations of lifting lyrics for use in the work. In 2015, singer Jessie Braham said that Swift, Martin, and Shellback used a "22-word phrase" from his 2013 single "Haters Gone Hate," which he alleged equated to "92 percent of the lyrics used" in Swift's "Shake It Off." He requested $42 million in damages and a writing credit on the song. That case was dismissed.

With reporting from Celine Wojtala.

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