Just when Taylor Swift thought she was out of the woods, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has revived a copyright lawsuit about the lyrics in “Shake It Off” from her album 1989. Sean Hall and Nathan Butler, the songwriters for the 2001 3LW song “Players Gon’ Play,” sued Swift in September 2018 for her use of the phrase “players gon’ play” and “haters gon’ hate” in the breakdown of “Shake It Off.” (You know it. Don’t make us sing it or it will get stuck in all of our heads.) The original federal judge decided that, since players playing and haters hating are ubiquitous, the phrases are not intellectual property. At the time, the judge wrote, “Combining two truisms about playas and haters, both well-worn notions as of 2001, is simply not enough,” according to The Hollywood Reporter. But on Monday, three appellate-court judges ruled that the original decision had been made too quickly, and they questioned the propriety of a judge’s presiding over a case involving questions of artistic nuance. So while it seemed like the copyright lawsuit couldn’t come to the phone because it’s dead, à la “Look What You Made Me Do,” it’s very much alive and kicking, à la “This Love!”
The case will be back in court soon enough, adding one more item to Swift’s massive 2020 to-do list. The singer also plans on rerecording all of her albums, including 1989, after music manager Scooter Braun bought the rights to her masters (kickstarting a feud that split celebrities faster than Ellen hanging with George W. Bush did). Which means she’s gonna need the “haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate” mantra now more than ever.