Unapologetic capitalist Taylor Swift is embroiled in a battle over copyright and artists’ rights, something she champions when it’s convenient for her—like in her widely publicized dispute with Apple Music over payment. This time, however, Swift is allegedly on the ripping off side as opposed to the ripped off one.
On Halloween 2014, Swift Instagrammed a fan-made fox illustration alongside the lyric, “They are the hunters / We are the foxes” from her 1989 track “I Know Places.” Artist Ally Burguieres created the original fox image and offers it for sale on her online shop for $45. When she saw that her work had been copied and publicly posted, she asked for it to be taken down. Swift’s team agreed, but with certain conditions that cast doubt on the “Bad Blood” singer’s honesty about her actual position on artists’ rights.
Here’s Burguieres’ original letter to Swift:
Swift’s lawyers issued a response to Rolling Stone:
A fan has stated that she created the watercolor drawing of a fox, added some of Taylor’s lyrics and signed the artwork as her own, posting it. Ms. Swift, believing it to be the fan’s original work, reposted the fan’s art, with her own comment, continuing the social media conversation. Ms. Burguieres did not contact Taylor’s office, but she posted on social media her claim that the fan had used her drawing. We found that posting, accepted it at face value and immediately took down Taylor’s posting of the fan art. At no time during these postings did Ms. Burguieres contact our office directly.
Notwithstanding the huge publicity this has generated for Ms. Burguieres and her store, in early November, Ms. Swift’s office made a fair offer of payment well above a reasonable licensing fee for the short time that the fan art was posted online. The offer was for a payment to Ms. Burguieres – there was no requirement of a contribution to any charity. Her lawyer further advised us that Ms. Burguieres chose to go after Taylor only, and not against the woman who has admitted she used Ms. Burguieres’ work as inspiration. Ms. Burguieres’ lawyer acknowledged Ms. Swift’s action was unintentional, but rejected the offer. She promised to get back to us with an explanation of why she felt Ms. Burguieres was entitled to more money, but she never did that and the next we heard was Ms. Burguieres’ new posting.
We have tried on multiple occasions to address Ms. Burguieres’ concerns, but these actions make it clear to us that this is just an unfortunate effort to extract more money and more publicity.
And Burguieres responded once more, sticking to her guns:
To answer your statement about my letter, I am glad you and your team realized your mistake in posting the pirated copy of my work; however, I still wonder why you consistently refused to publicly correct the attribution and let people know it was mine? I made multiple attempts at direct contact.
You talk about the “huge publicity” this generated for me. I must point out that your original post, as posted, generated no publicity for me or my store. Hence why I requested you to please credit me as the artist. It was my open letter, and my refusal to be silenced, bullied and intimidated, that led to publicity. I stopped seeking fair publicity or payment from you when it became apparent neither you nor your team had an intention of staying true to your “Art is valuable and valuable things should be paid for” campaign. Perhaps you think it served its purpose, and no longer applies.
You told Apple Music’s Zane Lowe that you were “struck with this overwhelming sense of fear” about the consequences. Did it ever occur to you I felt the same fear, and that instead of the decency with which Apple acquiesced to your demands, my simple requests are being met with contention and insult? I truly believe it’s a disservice to artists that you chose to call those who stand up for their rights greedy or ungrateful. It pains me to see you and your team use the name of independent artists to get better compensation for yourself, but then intimidate and belittle other artists when you’re in the position to give credit and do the compensating.
You and your team claim to have made a “fair” offer. Regardless of whether “four figures” is fair, I stand by my open letter in that my lawyers relayed to me that your considered offer would include a stipulation of donation. They mentioned you even thought I should donate to an “animal charity” (presumably your team looked me up and found out I’m vegan). If I said no, you could publicly brush me off as denying charity money and not caring about my stated passions, and claim I was only looking for money and publicity. I’m not surprised you’re denying the stipulation; it was misguided at best and insulting and calculating at worst.
Finally, standing up for my rights does not mean I’m “going after” you or anyone else. I have no desire to “go after” anyone, and I do not believe that me standing up for my basic creative rights should be a problem for an artist such as yourself. I spoke with the artist who originally copied the design, and the issue has been resolved. What has not been resolved is your sharing of the pirated copy to millions of people, and your further compounding this mistake by refusing to officially credit me for the work you used, even going so far as to insult and discredit my intentions. I have only ever asked for what any artist knows is reasonable and fair, and in a way that does not target or [vilify] you, but does hold you accountable to a professional standard.
It’s interesting that all this is going on as Swift files for trademark claims on her stylized image of 1989 and more terms, including “Swiftmas,” and has a crowd-sourced book of fan tripe coming soon. Here’s hoping swift justice comes for all parties involved. Also, please don’t sue us.