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How small does an idea have to be, before it becomes big enough to belong to someone outright. More than three words between two plaintiffs, according to one judge. Where Ms Swift was expected to sign a cheque, there is just blank space.
In a world where individual words have been successfully copyright protected (metrosexual, threepeat, but not omnishambles) it might have been expected that it was a no-brainer (not copyright) for judge Michael W Fitzgerald to rule in favour of hip-hop style songwriters Sean Hall and Nathan Butler.
When given their chance to speak, now going back to December, the pair sued the divine Ms S, saying that the line “haters gonna hate” - in Swift’s song Shake It Off, was in fact all too well known to come from their song Playas Gon' Play, the chorus of which is a catchy "playas, they gonna play, and haters, they gonna hate”.
At Springfords, we have a reputation for accuracy. The last time we checked the office hip-hop disco party mix tape, we spotted that the actual lyric wasn’t precisely the same as the line in question. Surely not in their wildest dreams did the treacherous two think they would be the lucky one, and their action would succeed.
Legal eagles will tell you that short phrases - like “new romantics” - are generally immune from copyright claims. So, if you propose that your new garment altering emporium franchise be called Swift Tayloring, you shouldn’t be courting any bad blood. However, Hall and Butler argued that combining their two thoughts was original enough to warrant protection. Case closed, safe & sound, or so they thought.
Meanwhile, back in court, the fearless Judge Fitzgerald should’ve said no when this folio was placed under his gavel. After three days of watching sparks fly over whether it was ‘our song or ours’, it was only professional integrity that was keeping his eyes open, and he was thinking he’d chosen the wrong bar to come up to back in 1989.
In a breathless end game that made Judge Judy seem ponderous, the magistrate finally dismissed the claim against the American girl as crazier than an invisible umbrella. In about fifteen seconds, he denounced the argument - and the lyric - as “banal”.
Call this result what you want, but as Taylor might say: “Gorgeous”. That of course was the only gratuitous use of a Taylor Swift lyric in this whole piece. Well, the second but, when it comes to quotes from Ms Swift - two is better than one.