Major recording artists like Taylor Swift are taking advantage of the generous protections afforded to them by U.S. copyright and trademark laws. Swift has filed for, and received, numerous trademarks for lyrical phrases such as "This Sick Beat" and "Party Like It's 1989" and has threatened merchants selling handmade Swift-themed goods through the online marketplace, Etsy. Swift is primarily targeting fan-made artwork whose creators profit minimally, if at all, and that likely has little to no effect on Swift's own merchandise sales. Swift has also expressed strong opposition to music streaming services, such as Spotify, that other recording artists have praised for allowing consumers to easily and affordably access a wide array of music. Artists who share Swift's views have withheld their music from streaming services, demonstrating their disapproval of royalty policies that they believe undercompensate artists, producers, writers, and labels.
This Comment first discusses the origin and evolution of intellectual property law-specifically copyright and trademark-in the United States. This Comment then examines how music artists have utilized and influenced copyright and trademark laws over time. Next, this Comment analyzes how present-day pop-stars like Taylor Swift have used these laws to their own advantage and to the detriment of creative innovation and public exposure to creative expression. Finally, this Comment recommends modification of current copyright and trademark laws to prevent this type of overprotection, specifically by restricting the trademarking of lyrical phrases and limiting simultaneous protection of lyrical phrases under both copyright and trademark laws.
The Implications of Pop-Star Practices on the Future of Intellectual Property,
Dick. L. Rev.
Available at: https://ideas.dickinsonlaw.psu.edu/dlra/vol121/iss2/6