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Swiftly Re-Recorded: Taylor Swift Exercises Copyright Ownership to Circumvent Album Rights

by | Nov 15, 2021 | Blog, Copyright | 0 comments

The music industry is abuzz this week due to Taylor Swift’s tactical re-release of her hit album, Red, as Red (Taylor’s Version). From 2005 to 2018, Swift was signed with Big Machine Records, the record label under which she skyrocketed to stardom. The thirteen-year contract provided that Big Machine would own the masters, or the original recordings, for the songs on Swift’s albums, which ultimately included those on: Taylor Swift (2006), Fearless (2008), Speak Now (2010), Red (2012), 1989 (2014), and Reputation (2017). On the other hand, Swift, who is famous for penning and composing her own love songs, retained the rights to her original lyrics and melodies under the agreement.

Swift left Big Machine for Universal’s Republic Records in 2018, and ensured that she secured the ownership of her future masters under the new contract. Then, in a move that shocked the music industry, Big Machine was quietly acquired in 2019 by Ithaca Holdings, a private equity group owned by Scooter Braun. Swift was unaware that her masters would fall into the hands of Braun, with whom she publicly had bad blood. Swift responded to the sale by calling Braun an “incessant, manipulative bully.” In the aftermath, there were attempts to block Swift from using the masters of her own songs, such as in her performance at the 2019 American Music Awards and in her Netflix documentary Miss Americana.

Equipped with her remaining rights, Swift resolved to re-record and re-release the albums she created under Big Machine in an attempt to regain control of her music. The re-recorded albums bear the same names as the originals, but each are marked as (Taylor’s Version).