Taylor Swift is a household name in the music industry, known for her catchy tunes, relatable lyrics, and her fighting spirit. Her music has won her numerous awards and millions of fans worldwide. But her battles are not limited to her music alone, as she has been fighting for her intellectual property rights for years.
Copyright law is the backbone of the music industry, providing musicians with legal protection for their creative works. In the United States, for something to be copyrightable, it must be fixed in a tangible medium. Musicians can obtain copyrights in two aspects of their works: (1) the musical composition, such as the lyrics and melodies, and (2) the sound recordings. The owner of a copyright has exclusive rights to control the reproduction, distribution, and performance of the work publicly and digitally, among other rights.
Countries differ in the underlying philosophy and/or reasoning for creating intellectual property protections. For instance, the United States follows an economically-driven model, believing that creating limited monopolies for creators promotes further creation by other innovators. Another possibility is the European Union and its member states, which subscribe to a creator model: the idea that intellectual property protection protects the rights of the creator, not necessarily the promotion of further innovation. Taylor Swift’s battles have to do with her intellectual property rights, and the outcomes may impact all musicians.
When Taylor Swift signed with Big Machine Records in 2005, she signed away the ownership rights to her songs’ recordings and was placed under a re-recording restriction, but she still maintained the copyright over the lyrics and melodies. After signing with a new label in 2018, Big Machine and its new owner, Scooter Braun, attempted to restrict her performances of these songs under the re-recording restriction. But her copyright over the musical composition allowed her to do what she did next: after the end of the re-recording restriction in 2020, she re-recorded her songs and released them as “Taylor’s Version.” This was an act to reclaim the products of her creativity. While Big Machine Records may own the copyrights to the recordings she made with them, in exercising her copyright over the musical compositions, she was able to create new recordings that she completely owns, as provided in her new contract with Universal Music Group.
This move by Taylor Swift not only allowed her to reclaim her creative works but also sparked a change in the way the public understands copyright law. The Music Modernization Act, passed in October 2018, implemented provisions to make licensing fairer for creators and more efficient for digital music providers. Since then, a number of bills have been introduced in the House and Senate offering greater protections to artists and creators over their exclusive rights to their creative works, including the Ask Musicians for Music Act of 2019, and the American Music Fairness Act, both of which address a creator’s exclusive rights to sound recording dissemination.
Taylor Swift’s battles have been a turning point for the music industry, with musicians taking a more active role in protecting their intellectual property rights. Her battles with Ticketmaster and music streaming services have also highlighted the importance of intellectual property rights for all artists. By fighting for her rights, she has become a symbol of hope for all musicians who want to protect their creative works.
In conclusion, Taylor Swift is not only a successful musician but also a fighter for her intellectual property rights. Her battles with record labels, music streaming services, and Ticketmaster have sparked a change in the way the public understands copyright law. Her actions have paved the way for greater protections for artists and creators, ensuring that they have the legal tools they need to protect their creative works.