Swift and painful intellectual property lessons

Will you be able to ‘Shake it Off’?

Most businesses properly learn about intellectual property when something goes wrong.

Taylor Swift amazingly successful singer and songwriter was caught out in 2018 and 2019 when her back catalogue rights were sold to a private investment company without her involvement. She had no say in this deal as a result of a contract signed with her indie recording label, Big Machine Records, back in 2005.

Smartly, Swift made sure this 2005 contract attributed her with Copyright BUT this it turns out was not enough, as she only received “composition rights” and NOT “masters rights”, which vested the recording with her indie label!

This is where contract law and business intellectual property work closely together, and it pays to be on alert.

The contract with Big Machine Records was so broad, that she was prevented from re-recording any of the works for several years. When that contract finished in 2018, she retained the copyrights to the compositions but not the rights to the master original recordings, (first six albums). Control of the master can provide rights to sell records or license the music to TV, film, radio, meaning it can be very lucrative if the artist is successful.

Recognising her predicament Swift got round the restrictions by re-recording all her songs from the original six albums in question. These are affectionately known as ‘Taylor’s versions’ and are expected to outsell the originals!

Roll forward to today and Swift just saw off another copyright infringement case where an artist accused her of copying their lyrics for her 2014 No 1 hit ‘Shake It Off’. She won the case saying Shake It Off’s ‘lyrics were written entirely by me’.

A lesson learned the hard way and an interesting lesson in making sure your business intellectual property aligns entirely with the contracts that you have in your business with suppliers, manufacturers, partners, employees etc.

Business intellectual property disputes sometimes take a while and lots of cash to shake off.  

Better to shake it off by being prepared

How prepared are you and do your contracts swiftly align with your business intellectual property?

taylor Swift and painful intellectual property lessons. Copyright and contracts

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For over 20 years I have been helping business to Win With IP: Using intellectual property to protect ideas, creations, inventions, and competitive advantage.
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