US judge says 'haters gonna hate' phrase 'too banal' to copyright in Taylor Swift case

Helena Horton
Judge Michael W Fitzgerald made the comments while dismissing a copyright case against Taylor Swift - PA

A judge has dismissed a case against Taylor Swift, remarking the phrase "haters gonna hate" is "too banal" to copyright.

Sean Hall and Nathan Butler sued the pop star last year, and said her hit single Shake It Off stole from their composition, Playas Gon' Play.

Their chorus goes: "playas, they gonna play, and haters, they gonna hate".

This is similar to the chorus of the song "Shake It Off."

However, Judge Michael W Fitzgerald ruled in Swift's favour, and wrote: "The lynchpin of this entire case is thus whether or not the lyrics 'Playas, they gonna play, and haters, they gonna hate' are eligible for protection.

"In the early 2000s, popular culture was adequately suffused with the concepts of players and haters to render the phrases 'playas… gonna play' or 'haters… gonna hate', standing on their own, no more creative than 'runners gonna run'; 'drummers gonna drum'; or 'swimmers gonna swim.'

"The concept of actors acting in accordance with their essential nature is not at all creative; it is banal.

"The allegedly infringed lyrics are short phrases that lack the modicum of originality and creativity required for copyright protection."

He summed up: "In sum, the lyrics at issue... are too brief, unoriginal, and uncreative to warrant protection under the Copyright Act."

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Hall and Butler's lawyer, Gerard Fox, described the judge's comments as "embarrassing" and said he would appeal Judge Fitzgerald's ruling.

He argued that the judge should have called in an expert to rule on the originality of the lyrics instead of interpreting them himself.

"He cannot make himself an expert in the music industry," he said. "I'm sorry. it's actually embarrassing."