The decision was announced in court filings Monday, Dec. 12, with all parties involved asking the judge for an order “dismissing the action in its entirety.” U.S. District Judge Michael Fitzgerald dismissed the case with prejudice, meaning the case can’t be brought again.
The filings did not include any reason for, or explanation behind, the agreement to dismiss the case. Lawyers for the defendants — which also included Swift’s co-writers Max Martin and Shellback — did not immediately return Rolling Stone’s request for comment, nor did a rep for Swift. Lawyers for the songwriters who brought the suit, Sean Hall and Nathan Butler, also did not return a request for comment.
The dismissal caps off a five-year legal battle that started in 2017 and was set to head to trial in January. Hall and Butler had accused Swift of essentially lifting the phrases “hater’s gonna hate” and “player’s gonna play” from their 2001 song, “Playas Gon’ Play” by 3LW.
Swift repeatedly rebuffed the claim, with her lawyers arguing that lyrics about “players” and “haters” were a common trope and not singular enough to be covered by copyright law. Hall and Butler’s suit was actually dismissed in 2018, but a year later, a panel of federal judges revived it, stating it was dropped prematurely. At the end of 2021, Judge Fitzgerald ruled that the suit would go to trial; and as recently as September, he was rebuffing Swift’s last-ditch attempts to have the case dismissed before the trial began.
At one point in the proceedings this past August, Swift filed her own legal declaration in which she discussed the origins of “Shake It Off” and denied any copyright infringement. In the filing, Swift claimed she was improvising the lyrics and insisted that she hadn’t heard 3LW’s “Playas Gon’ Play” before the suit was filed.
“In writing the lyrics, I drew partly on experiences in my life and, in particular, unrelenting public scrutiny of my personal life, ‘clickbait’ reporting, public manipulation, and other forms of negative personal criticism which I learned I just needed to shake off and focus on my music,” Swift wrote. “Prior to writing ‘Shake it Off,’ I had heard the phrases ‘players gonna play’ and ‘haters gonna hate’ uttered countless times to express the idea that one should shrug off negativity.”
Swift also touched on hearing “similar player and hater phrases in many songs, films, and other works prior to ‘Shake It Off.’” One of her examples was Eric Church using the same lyrics in his song “The Outsiders.”