Taylor Swift blasts expert hired in ‘Shake It Off’ case: ‘Making It Up As He Goes Along’

Lawyers for Taylor Swift is asking a federal judge to exclude several “unqualified” expert witnesses from her upcoming copyright lawsuit over “Shake It Off,” including one who they claim is “simply making it up as he goes along.”

After more than five years of litigation, Swift is finally scheduled for a jury trial in January over allegations that she stole the core lyrics to her 2014 hit from a 2001 song called “Playas Gon’ Play” by the group 3LW. The pop star and her lawyers say the case is deeply flawed, but a judge has so far refused to dismiss it.

During the upcoming trials, each side will rely heavily on expert testimony to make their case to the jury. But in a court hearing Monday (Sept. 5), Swift’s lawyers told a federal judge that several of her accusers’ experts were not qualified to rule on the issues in the case — including one they said offered “unsupported, purely subjective and irrelevant argue.”

“He is clearly not qualified to give the opinion or any of the other opinions he has expressed in this matter, and his statements confirm that he is simply making it up as he goes along,” Swift’s lawyers wrote.

The case against Swift was brought in 2017 by Sean Hall and Nathan Butler, the songwriters who wrote “Playas Gon’ Play.” In their 2001 song, the line was “playas, they gonna play” and “haters, they gonna hate”; in Swift’s track, she sings, “Because the players will play, play, play, play, play, and the haters will hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.”

Swift’s lawyers have repeatedly moved to end the lawsuit, arguing that lyrics about “players” and “haters” are too common to be covered by copyright. Last month, Swift said she had “never heard” the earlier song she is accused of copying. But a federal judge has refused to throw it out, sending the case to a jury trial currently scheduled for mid-January.

Such testimony plays a significant role in trials on complex issues such as music and copyright infringement, as jurors are typically untrained in the subject they must understand.

In the suit, Swift’s lawyers asked the court to reject the testimony of a George Washington University professor whom Hall and Butler had retained to compare the similarities between the lyrics, saying he is “not a literary expert and he relies on abstractions and generalities , while he ignores pervasive differences between the songs’ respective lyrics.” They said another plaintiff’s expert, an accountant, offered a report that was a “complete error.”

But more than the others, Swift’s lawyers took special aim Bob Kohn, a New York-based attorney who authored a treatise on music licensing and has previously served as an expert witness in several other major copyright cases. In a pointed comment, Swift’s lawyers said Kohn had previously faced legal backlash during his other stints as an expert witness.

“Mr. Kohn has not hesitated to opine on matters outside his knowledge of business practices in the music industry, leading at least three courts to reject his opinions as conclusory, beyond his expertise or purely legal argument,” they wrote. “But Mr. Kohn is outdoing himself here.”

Kohn was retained to testify about the amount of profits from “Shake It Off” attributable to the lyrics Swift allegedly stole. In his report, he said that the allegedly copied lyrics were the “heart” of Hall and Butler’s song, and that 50% of “Shake It Off” profits came from those lyrics: “Without the heart lyrics taken from Playas Gon’ Playthe rest of the texts i Shake it Oetc lose it all power meaning, and energy.”

But in Monday’s response, Swift’s lawyers said Kohn’s allegations were merely “unsubstantiated allegations disguised as expert testimony,” without no real analysis to back it up. And citing a statement questioning Kohn about his relevant expertise, they said he had been found to be “patently unqualified” for the job.

“Whhthen asked to explain how his claimed expertise qualifies him to opine on that part of Shake it off‘s attributable profit to the lyrics players will play and haters will hate as opposed to other factors, Sir. Kohn was uable to do so“, Swift’s lawyers wrote.He claimed instead that he has been listening to music since to see The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show, that he reads a lot and is a member of one book club.”

“Listen to music and read a lot Simply don’t make Sir. Kohn more of onen expert than the rest of us,” Swift’s lawyers wrote.

Kohn did not immediately return a request for comment Wednesday. An attorney for Hall and Butler also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Related Posts