The Washington Post’s Jessica Contrera reports that beloved singer Taylor Swift is looking to trademark a number of phrases, including “Swiftmas,” “Blank Space,” “and I’ll write your name,” along with the name of her last album, “1989.”
That’s right, Swift is looking to trademark an entire year.
Intellectual property has gone too far.
Of course, 1989 is a significant number for Taytay, being the year of her birth. However, she is ultimately just one of four million Americans born in that fateful year.
I happen to also be one of them.
So, if Swift is successful in trademarking our mutual date year of birth, I arguably cannot use the digits for any commercial purpose, including selling merchandise or even singing in a live performance.
And Taylor isn’t afraid to sue. Contrera chronicles a number of Swift’s trademark-related lawsuits, some of which seem downright mean. Swift even sued the man who taught her guitar because he bought the domain itaughttaylorswift.com. Ouch.
The suits are certain to keep coming in because of the sheer number of phrases Taylor has trademarked. Here’s a short list that Contrera has compiled:
- Could show you incredible things
- A girl named girl (which is said to be the title of a book she wrote as a kid. She has )
- Swiftmas and Swiftstakes
- Blank Space
- And I’ll write your name
- Players gonna play
- Shake it off
- The 1989 World Tour and Party like it’s 1989
- T.S.1989 and 1989
The irony of it all is that Swift may be violating a very liberal interpretation of trademarking herself. “Party like it’s 1989,” after all, is a lyric altered from Prince’s “party like it’s 1999.” Should the artist formerly known as the artist formerly known as Prince teach Swift a lesson in court?
Of course not, because the free use language and music is how artists pay tribute and improve upon each other. Taylor was right to give her respects to one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, but she shouldn’t turn around and prevent future artists from doing so to her. If this sue-happy culture continues to poison the music industry, sampling music for a mashup song or even recording a cover song on YouTube could require payment.
For the sake of artistic freedom, let’s hope Taylor and all other superstars can tell their legal team to “Shake It Off” when it comes to minor infringements of trademarks by new artists.