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Taylor Swift law class at Queen’s University making shock waves

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A first of its kind entertainment law course centred on Taylor Swift will be offered this fall at Queen’s University.

Professor of business law at Queen’s University, Mohamed Khimji, will be teaching the course this September. He told CRFA Live on Newstalk 580 CFRA Sunday Swift’s high influence on the public will make the class more relatable to the world we live in.

The idea came “spontaneously” to his mind about a month ago.

“I was just chatting with one of my colleagues (who’s) also a fan and we were just going through her recorded albums and debating which one was better, the Taylor’s version or the original version of that,” he said.

His colleague then asked “why did (she) record her albums?”

To answer that question, the professor started explaining the business and legal reasons associated with Swift’s recordings.

“It made me think, my students would be interested in this as well,” he added.

That was when he started doing research on the singer’s various interactions with the law. In the process, he figured that he can actually structure an entire entertainment law course, consisting entirely of examples from her career to illustrate the business and legal reasoning behind her moves.

Swift for popularity, history, legal business deals

The Kingston, Ont. university’s professor says Swift is worthy of study for being a social phenomenon.

“Taylor Swift is everywhere in NFL, in football and NHL. It’s kind of incredible – her reach in pop culture,” Khimji said.

"She dominates the pop culture to such a degree that we would struggle to find the historical comparison. Right now, the prime ministers of Singapore and Thailand are fighting over which country has the exclusive right to host the Eras Tour around that part of the world. It’s just astonishing."

In addition to the fun Swift law course offers, the business lessons are big in terms of copyrights, trademarks and various legal subjects, he notes.

"It seemed like it was a practice area. It touches on various legal subjects like contracts and the negotiation of record deal, specifically, in her case, (it) touches on copyright, but that’s the legal regime that governs ownership of creative work,” he said.

He adds that that specific example from her career has a practical impact on how business deals are now negotiated, citing her lawyers who negotiate these deals.

“A famous example would be Olivia Rodrigo was negotiating her record deal in 2020 and she insisted that she retains ownership ... and the record company agreed,” he said. 

Swift released a 31-track surprise double album called “The Tortured Poets Department” on Friday. In one day, it became the most streaming album for Spotify, reportedly exceeding 200 million streams.

Other universities around the world offered a similar course in the past, but the focus was not on entertainment law.

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