Many common and popular phrases appear in different songs. Because certain phrases have been part of common usage for so long, no one is certain who the first person may have been to actually say the words. However, there are often disputes over whether certain phrases actually are part of common vernacular. New York artists of all mediums may be interested in a recent case brought against popular singer Taylor Swift, who has been accused of using the intellectual property of two other songwriters that say she used lines from their own songs in the lyrics for one of her most popular hits. Reps for Swift argue that the lines in question weren’t invented by the songwriters.
The songwriters are taking legal action against Swift because they say lyrics from her hit “Shake it Off” were taken from songs they wrote back at the beginning of the century. The lines in question from Swift’s song reference two phrases — “playas gonna play” and “haters gonna hate.” The songwriters first filed suit against Swift back in 2017 because they say that those lines appear in their 2001 song “Playas Gon’ Play,” sung by a female group known as 3LW.
The lawsuit went to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and has since been sent back to a lower court, something that both sides claim is good for their case. The court is concerned with just what constitutes a common phrase and what might make it original. The songwriters suing Swift believe that their case is important for artists who may not have the means to take on more widely-known artists who have access to more resources.
Regardless of how this case turns out, it is imperative that artists of all mediums take steps to protect their intellectual property. It can prevent their original works from being used by someone else for profit. Any artists who are unsure of how to protect their art here in New York may want to involve an attorney with significant experience in copyright law.