On August 23, 2022, a complaint was filed by Teresa La Dart against Taylor Swift for copyright infringement. The infringement in question is between Teresa La Dart’s 2010 book titled “Lover” and Taylor Swift’s 2019 album, also titled “Lover.”
La Dart asserts that “…a number of creative elements that copied the expressive designs and arrangements of the TLD “Lover” book without authorization or credit, to the detriment of La Dart.” Specifically, La Dart’s complaint mentions:
“i) substantially the same format of a recollection of past years memorialized in a combination of written and pictorial components within a book, ii) with a substantially similar cover format, with the author photographed in a downward pose, and color scheme (pastel pinks and blues) with the same title (again, “Lover”)… v) ...a substantially similar color scheme (pastel pinks and blues)” Here are the covers of the 2 works in question:
Now let’s look at the differences between the works:
– La Dart’s book is a book of poetry, while Swift’s album is a musical album.
– Pastel pinks and blues are used differently in terms of the book covers.
– The photos used on the covers are different.
– The word “Lover” is placed differently and is in different font.
There are more differences between them, but it should be obvious that the covers are very different.
Since this is a copyright infringement case, let’s talk a little bit about copyright law.
When it comes to a book, copyright law protects the text of the book. In other words, the actual story contained within the pages of the book. The Copyright office even says that “Names, Titles, and Short Phrases” are uncopyrightable. Therefore, the title of a book can not be protected by copyright law.
A similar view is taken when it comes to songs. The protection of a song is through the musical composition and the lyrics, not a song title.
Notice that in the above screen shot, three different artists have the song title “Let’s Go.” But all of those songs sound different.
Layouts and designs, as well as typeface and lettering can not be protected by copyright law. “The general layout or format of a book, page, book cover, slide presentation, web page, poster, or form is uncopyrightable because it is a template for expression.” (Some of those could be protected by trademark law, but that is another conversation)
So what do you think? Do you think Teresa La Dart has a good case, or do you think Taylor Swift can have this case dismissed?