Current Events: Taylor Swift’s Re-Records and Intellectual Property

Among her many accomplishments, Taylor Swift has been named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year for 2023. The globally acclaimed singer-songwriter has made headlines throughout the last year with her Eras Tour, which has grossed an estimated $1 billion in it’s first leg. Swift has also released more of her re-recorded albums, a strategic move to maintain control over her own catalog of music. The decision to re-record her albums highlights the bad blood between the music industry and creators. At the heart of this issue is intellectual property.

Swift’s decision to re-record her albums is a clever move in the ever evolving and complex area of intellectual property. Her story is a common one in the industry: as a young teenager, Swift signed a record deal, giving certain ownership and rights over her music to the record label with significant financial implications. While the record label kept parts of her intellectual property (the master tracks), Swift kept ownership of her old songbook and lyrics. Due to the split in intellectual property, Swift has had the ability to re-record her previous albums and make money on her own “life’s work.”

To understand the significance of Swift’s endeavor, it’s important to delve into intellectual property rights. According to the World Intellectual Property Organization, intellectual property is defined as “creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce.” Intellectual property is protected by law through patents, copyrights, and trademarks so people can earn money and recognition for their inventions and work.

This week’s Current Events resources examine how the content creators, like Taylor Swift, navigate the legal world of intellectual property. The resources shared provide information and context around how the law is designed to protect property outside of real property, including trademarks, copyrights, and patents.


Essential Questions, Vocabulary & Extend the Resources:

  • Why is Taylor Swift choosing to re-record her albums, and what does this decision mean in terms of artistic ownership and intellectual property?
  • How does the concept of intellectual property extend beyond the music industry, and what might this mean for creators in other artistic fields?
  • In what ways does the concept of intellectual property intersect with themes of individual rights and creative expression?
  • How do contractual agreements impact an artist’s ownership of their art?


Click here for a hardcopy of the Essential Questions and Vocabulary

Click here for a hardcopy of Extension Activities CLP suggests implementing with this content





Taylor Swift rewrites her story, Today Explained, April 2021

Taylor Swift Joins the History of Re-Recorded Music — But She’s Taking It Even Further, Pop Shop Podcast, February 16, 2021

Can Taylor Swift Sing Her Own Music?,The Emily Show, November 22, 2019

What the Taylor Swift controversy tells us about who really profits from recording artists’ work, Front Burner, July 23, 2019

Background Resources:

Navigating Intellectual Property Law in the Music Industry, Schmeiser Olsen & Watts LLP, October 18, 2023

What is Intellectual Property?, World Intellectual Property Organization

Intellectual Property, Cornell Law School

Taylor Swift’s Tumblr Announcement, Tumblr

Recent Articles:

2023 Person of the Year: Taylor Swift, Time Magazine, December 6, 2023

Why Record Labels Are Upset With Taylor Swift’s Success, Forbes, November 3, 2023

Why Taylor Swift is rerecording all her old songs, Vox, August 10, 2023

What Are Masters and Why Do Taylor Swift & Other Artists Keep Fighting for Them?, Billboard, July 3, 2019

Integrating Intellectual Property Into the STEM Curriculum, Edutopia, November 2, 2023

Recent Editorials:

Opinion: Why Taylor Swift just accomplished what no other musician has, CNN, July 24, 2024

EDITORIAL: Taylor Swift, Taylor Swift, Taylor Swift, The Daily Free Press, November 15, 2021

Lesson Plans:

Lesson Plan: Patent pending! Learn how to patent your invention, PBS Newshour Classroom, July 3, 2023

The Four Factors of Fair Use, Common Sense Education

Intellectual Property Resources for Educators, Intellectual Property Owners Education Foundation

Resources for Younger Students:

The 5 eras of Taylor Swift, CBC Kids News, April 25, 2023

Taylor Swift breaks record as female with most no. 1 albums, KidsNews, July 18, 2023

A Creator’s Rights and Responsibilities (Grade 4), Common Sense Education

Let’s Give Credit! (Grade 2), Common Sense Education 


Published December 2023