Can Taylor Swift ‘Shake Off’ Her Legal Troubles?

Approximately 173,300 people worked as professional musicians in 2014, but very few of them have achieved the kind of success that Taylor Swift has. As problematic as the songstress may be in some circles, she’s still often seen as a successful role model for young listeners. But although the pop star takes a “Shake It Off” approach when things don’t go her way, she might not be able to so easily dismiss the various legal allegations that are being brought against her.

One legal bullet Swift was able to dodge was in the form of a now-thrown-out copyright infringement suit brought by the writers of girl group 3LW‘s song “Playas Gon’ Play.” The 2001 pop tune that contains the lyrics “Playas, they gonna play / And haters, they gonna hate.” The writers allege that some of Swift’s “Shake It Off” lyrics — “‘Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play / And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate” — are simply too similar to those found in their song.

But the judge did not agree. A weak resemblance or rhyme scheme isn’t enough to satisfy a copyright infringement suit, and short phrases are not protectable elements under copyright law. Although 3LW songwriters Sean Hall and Nathan Butler tried to argue that the combination of the two ideas was completely original back when their song came out, Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald dismissed the claim, insisting that the concepts of players and haters were everywhere in early 2000s pop culture and in the songs of that time.

Although Fitzgerald would allow the pair to amend their complaint, his dismissal expressed skepticism that the writers would be able to do so in accordance with what the law provides. “Shake It Off” has already been targeted for copyright suits in the past — a $42 million suit was brought against Swift in 2015 by Jessie Braham, who alleged 92% of the song was lifted from his 2013 tune “Hater Gonna Hate.” The judge in that case dismissed Braham’s claim as well, citing that the plaintiff failed to provide evidence to support it.

T. Swift might be safe on the song front, but surprisingly, not every allegation against her has been a musical one. New York City tenants and brokers seem to have some “Bad Blood” with the singer following her purchase of million-dollar Tribeca dwellings on Franklin Street. Over 10 million real estate investors own more than one property, and Taylor has made it her mission to acquire several. Not only are her neighbors worried she’ll try to combine her penthouse with other units she owns, as she’s done in the past, but even the way she purchased her latest property has some people fuming.

Real estate company Douglas Elliman has now sued Swift for breach of contract, alleging that the singer gave one of their agents an “executive written promise” that he would represent Swift during the sale. After showing Swift the property as a potential off-market deal in January 2017, the agent received an email from Firefly Entertainment and 13 Management LLC, companies owned by Swift, saying they wanted to work “solely” with him on the deal. After obtaining the blueprints and introducing Swift’s team to the owner, the agent says he received only radio silence. It wasn’t until months later that he learned that Swift had not decided on another property, as he assumed, but had purchased the property with help from a different broker in October 2017.

The agent has now filed a breach of contract claim against Swift to the tune of $1,080,000 (equivalent to the 6% commission rate he would have received from the sale). Texas law allows breach of contract claims to be filed within four years of the incident, with New York allowing a couple more years’ time — but the agent was quick to sue Firefly Entertainment, 13 Management LLC, and Euro Tribeca (a third company owned by Swift through which the final deal was arranged) effective January 25. The agent is also asking for judgement costs, interests, and other relief.

It’s unclear as to whether Swift will be able to continue her lucky streak in the courts. Maybe the broker should have known she was trouble when she walked in.

Leave a Comment