I have to admit I kinda like Taylor Swift. She’s cute and she can write a hit song. But yesterday, what little admiration I had for her vanished when I heard this piece on the radio informing us that Taylor Swift now owns the phrase “Speak Now.” That’s right, according to NPR, Taylor Swift “… was granted a trademark for the phrase ‘speak now.'” But that’s not all. She’s applied for dozens of trademarks, including one for the phrase “Love, Love, Love” (see a list of her trademark applications here) Wow! Something is awry here.
Let’s start with the fact that “Love, Love, Love” is beginning of a Beatles song by Lennon-McCartney that is far better than anything Taylor Swift has ever written or is likely to write during her lifetime.
Don’t get me wrong, artists deserve copyright protection for their works and I heartily approve of giving songwriters copyrights to their songs. But Taylor Swift has a trademark on the phrase “Speak Now” giving her exclusive rights to use it on “Textiles and textile goods, not included in other classes; bed and table covers.” See the detail here. So if you print out this post and stick it on your pillow, you might actually be breaking the law.
Perhaps if there are any copyright lawyers reading this, you could answer me this: Without infringing on Little Ms. Swift, could I sell a tablecloth for wedding receptions that said, “Speak Now of Forever Hold Your Piece”?
How does this happen? And what’s next? Is Paul McCartney going to challenge her application for “Love, Love Love”? Is he going to apply for a trademark for the phrase “She Loves You” or better yet, “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah”?
Here are some videos to watch as you ponder these lofty questions:
Here’s George Harrison’s hit “My Sweet Lord”, the subject of one of the most famous and contentious copyright infringement suits ever (Harrison lost — see here)
Here’s Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me” another song, which was the subject of copyright infringement, but he and Tom Petty (writer of “I Won’t Back Down”, the chorus of which really is very similar) worked things out amicably (see details here.)