Apparently a musician by the name of Jessie Braham sued Taylor Swift for plagiarizing lyrics from one of his songs and using it in her hit single “Shake It Off”. Swift’s lyrics: “Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play. And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate. “And the fakers gonna fake, fake, fake, fake, fake.” Braham’s lyrics: “Haters gone hate, playas gone play. Watch out for them fakers, they’ll fake you everyday.” Plagiarism? I think not. And neither did Judge Gail Standish who dismissed the case from court. Somehow Braham credited himself with 92% of “Shake It Off” and alleged this in his complaint and also determined he was owed $42 million in damages AND a songwriter credit. HA!
Interestingly enough Braham filed this case without a lawyer. My guess is there wasn’t one who felt they could make a colorable claim out of the situation. Either that, or everyone is a Taylor Swift fan, including Judge Standish who referenced various Taylor song lyrics in her conclusion for dismissing the case. Judge Standish writes: “At present, the court is not saying that Braham can never, ever, ever get his case back in court. But, for now, we have got problems, and the court is not sure Braham can solve them…As currently drafted, the complaint has a blank space – one that requires Braham to do more than write his name. And, upon consideration of the court’s explanation … Braham may discover that mere pleading Band-Aids will not fix the bullet holes in his case. At least for the moment, defendants have shaken off this lawsuit”. – Hilarious! Judge Standish found that Braham’s complaint was factually deficient (hence the blank spaces) and merely speculative.
In this day and age, people sue for any and everything. Some suits are valid, while others are an absolute waste of the court’s time and resources. At what point can the courts decide they just don’t want to hear a case at all? There should be a preliminary step before you can even file a civil suit against somebody, one that determines whether your cause of action is really viable, so that defendants aren’t just hurled into court and forced to pay attorney’s fees to defend baseless allegations against them. There should be some administrative body that decides whether or not a plaintiff is even allowed to sue to begin with. Plaintiff’s should have to pay a bond of some amount to be heard by this administrative body. If it is determined the case should be pursued, the bond is applied toward case initiation filing fees and if it is determined that you can not go forward with the suit, the amount is forfeited and the defendant is never even bothered with the suit. I think it could work. It might deter some plaintiffs with ill intentions or too much time on their hands from stepping foot in the courthouse while freeing up some of the court’s time to pay attention to cases really worth hearing.
Braham’s case was dismissed without prejudice so if Braham can provide more information that rises to the level of copyright infringement, then he can re-file his claim against Ms. Swift. But I think that might only occur in his “wildest dreams”… (Sorry, I had to do it. I’m a Taylor Swift fan too!)
Lerae Funderburg, Esq. is the Managing Attorney at Funderburg Law, LLC, an Atlanta based entertainment law firm. Lerae has almost 10 years of experience in entertainment law in both music law and film law. As an entertainment lawyer and blogger, Lerae keeps her viewers and subscribers up to date with entertainment law news, especially in the areas of music, copyright law and trademark law. If you are local to Atlanta, call and set up a consultation! She would love to hear from you!