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Copyright lawsuit: How will it all shake out?

In recent posts, we have discussed the importance of protecting a business with copyrights, trademarks or patents. These tools can be a very effective way of legally establishing ownership of unique and specific products or services. In the event that another party violates this ownership by using or repurposing materials without permission, owners can take legal action in the form of commercial litigation.

However, it can be very complicated to navigate the legal process when ownership of material is called into question. This is why it can be crucial for people have the guidance and support of an attorney should they find themselves in this situation. For example, recently, a man filed a lawsuit against singer Taylor Swift for stealing musical lyrics. Unfortunately for him, it looks like his claim may not be successful.

According to reports, the male R&B singer claims that he holds copyrights to two phrases used in Swift's song, "Shake It Off." He claims that Swift used the phrases without his permission. He is requesting $42 million in damages and songwriting credit.

However, as noted by The U.S. Copyright Office, no one can claim exclusive rights to short phrases such as those referenced in Swift's case. In order to secure a copyright, materials must be "original works of authorship' and meet original expression guidelines, which is something that short phrases typically do not do.

Another obstacle facing the man who filed the suit is the fact that numerous other artists and singers have also used the phrases without issue. Further, Swift's song is reportedly very different than the plaintiff's song.

This is a strong example of how easy it can be to misinterpret copyright laws and restrictions in the U.S. People may think they own certain material when in reality, they do not. On the other hand, people can use protected works without permission, knowingly or accidentally.

In either scenario, it can be crucial to discuss your options with an attorney who can help you understand your rights and legal options. With legal support, you can protect yourself, your business and your bottom line by avoiding conflicts and/or challenging wrongful allegations.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Taylor Swift Being Sued $42 Million For 'Shake It Off' Lyrics," Julia Brucculieri, Nov. 2, 2015

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