SAN FRANCISCO (CelebrityAccess) — The federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday reinstated a lawsuit accusing Taylor Swift of lifting lyrics from Sean Hall’s 2001 song “Playas Gon’ Play” for her 2014 hit “Shake It Off.”
The lawsuit, filed by two songwriters Sean Hall (DBA As Gimme Some Hot Sauce Music) and Nathan Butler (DBA Faith Force Music) claim that Swift’s lyrics “‘Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play/And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate,” infringe on lyrics for the 2001 song which includes the lines “The playas gon’ play/Them haters gonna hate.”
The case had previously been dismissed in a district court based on a lack of originality in the pertinent portions of the original work.
However, the appeals court ruled that the “district court constituted itself as the final judge of the worth of an expressive work” and reversed the lower court’s ruling “because the absence of originality is not established either on the face of the complaint or through the judicially noticed matters.”
In their ruling, the appellate judges cited a ruling by Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in a landmark 1903 copyright case Bleistein v. Donaldson Lithographing.
“It would be a dangerous undertaking for persons trained only to the law to constitute themselves final judges of the worth of pictorial illustrations, outside of the narrowest and most obvious limits. At the one extreme, some works of genius would be sure to miss appreciation. Their very novelty would make them repulsive until the public had learned the new language in which their author spoke. It may be more than doubted, for instance, whether the etchings of Goya or the paintings of Manet would have been sure of protection when seen for the first time. At the other end, copyright would be denied to pictures which appealed to a public less educated than the judge. Yet if they command the interest of any public, they have a commercial value — it would be bold to say that they have not an aesthetic and educational value — and the taste of any public is not to be treated with contempt.,” Holmes wrote in the decision for Bleistein.
The reversal sends the lawsuit back to U.S. District Court for further consideration.