A Los Angeles federal judge has refused Taylor Swift’s last-ditch efforts to avoid a jury trial over accusations that she stole the lyrics to “Shake It Off,” sending the case toward a January showdown.
The pop star’s attorneys had asked Judge Michael Fitzgerald to reconsider his December ruling to send the case to trial, calling it “unprecedented.” Her accusers quickly fired back that she was not entitled to “rehash” old arguments simply because she’s “unhappy” with facing a trial.
At a hearing on Monday, the judge said he would side with Swift’s accusers, saying he would deny Swift’s motion and stand by the reasoning of his earlier ruling. A reversal of a judge’s own decision would have been a very rare step, which courts take only if they’ve clearly gotten something wrong.
A formal written ruling has not yet been issued. An attorney for the accusers confirmed the decision, which was first reported by Rolling Stone, but declined to comment further. A spokeswoman for Swift both declined to comment.
The decision removes any doubt that Swift and her lawyers will face trial in January in the lawsuit, which claims she stole the core lyrics to her 2014 chart-topping hit from a 2001 song called “Playas Gon’ Play” by the group 3LW.
The case was filed in 2017 by Sean Hall and Nathan Butler, the songwriters who wrote “Playas Gon’ Play.” In their song, the line was “playas, they gonna play” and “haters, they gonna hate”; in Swift’s track, she sings, “‘Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play and the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.”
Swift’s lawyers have repeatedly moved to end the lawsuit, arguing that lyrics about “players” and “haters” are too commonplace to be covered by copyright law. And last month, Swift herself said she had “never heard” the earlier song she’s accused of copying.
But Judge Fitzgerald has so far refused to toss it out, ruling in December that there were “enough objective similarities” that he could not dismiss the case himself. The judge said Swift’s defense would present “a strong closing argument” for an eventual jury trial, but that she would still need to face one.
Monday’s order left that ruling in place. A trial is currently scheduled for mid-January 2023, but such dates are often changed before a case actually reaches a courtroom. The two sides are also currently battling over which experts can appear at the trial.
“Shake It Off” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in September 2014 and spent four weeks atop the chart. The song ultimately spent 50 weeks on the Hot 100, tied with Swift’s “You Belong With Me” for her longest-charting single.