When New York artists think about copyright, they generally consider protecting their work, especially if they are songwriters. However, that may not be the only creation they need to protect. Singers and bands can file for a trademark to protect a name they use to identify themselves. Even if they fail to do so, they may still have a claim under copyright law to a name they’ve used if someone else tries to use it without permission, depending on the circumstances. Recently, popular country group Lady Antebellum made the choice to change its name to Lady A, apparently not realizing that a blues singer has been using that name for around three decades.
The country group decided to change its name in response to criticism that “Lady Antebellum” glorifies the period of time before the Civil War when slavery was still in effect. What the group apparently did not realize is that a blues singer was already using “Lady A” as a stage name. She says no one from the group reached out to her before its announcement.
Though Lady A may not have an official trademark on the name, she may have more of a right to use it since she has been doing so for such a long period of time. However, the fact that she and the country group perform different genres of music could mean the two could agree to coexist. The group may have more financial resources than the singer, which could pose a problem if the matter winds up in court.
Though not every artist will have to contend with a famous person or group of people attempting to use their creations, it can still happen. It is important that artists of all mediums consider the potential financial loss that may result from someone using their work or name without permission. Those here in New York with concerns may want to consult a copyright law attorney to best protect what is theirs.