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Taylor Swift fans are upset over unofficial merch crackdown: ‘Such a bummer’


With her fourth Grammy under her belt and the announcement of her next album, “The Tortured Poets Department,” Taylor Swift’s stock has never been higher — and sellers of unofficial merch are looking to get in on the action.

But users on the Reddit thread r/TaylorSwiftMerch say that’s getting harder to do as shoppers and sellers report they’ve experienced canceled orders and online stores disappearing.

“I want to buy an ornament from Etsy, but I’ve heard Taylor is closing shops,” one person commented. 

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“I don’t want to order something only to have the shop disappear. Has anyone had any issues or heard this rumor?”

The answer seems to be a resounding “yes.”

“Ugh, yes, I have had multiple orders cancel or not show,” another person responded. 

“I had to open a case with Etsy to get a refund with one of them. It’s such a bummer, especially because Etsy is the only place I can find things in actual child sizes. I wonder who is the actual driving force — Etsy, or Taylor’s team?”

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Another person commented on an experience as a seller of unofficial Taylor Swift merchandise.

“Yes, it’s true,” the person wrote. “I was lucky enough to only have a listing taken down [of her most popular item], but some are getting completely shut down.”

fans during Taylor Swift Eras Tour

Fans enjoy Taylor Swift’s performance during The Eras Tour at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California, on Monday, Aug. 7, 2023. Swift’s fans, AKA “Swifties,” are known to be extremely loyal to the global superstar. (Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Fox News Digital reached out to Etsy for comment. 

Etsy is an e-commerce site that allows people to buy and sell handmade or vintage items and craft supplies. 

The global online marketplace’s policy, as listed on its website, states: “Etsy strives to respond quickly when we receive a report of intellectual property (IP) infringement that complies with our policies by removing or disabling access to the allegedly infringing material.”

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Etsy’s intellectual property (IP) policy also states that sellers are responsible for ensuring they have all necessary rights to their content and that they are not infringing or violating any third party’s rights by posting it.

Taylor Swift Reputation Era

Taylor Swift fans have expressed disappointment in a Reddit thread after Etsy appeared to crack down on unofficial merchandise attached to the singer. Taylor Swift performs onstage during The Eras Tour at Allianz Parque on Nov. 24, 2023, in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Buda Mendes/TAS23/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management)

The two things creators and sellers of unofficial merchandise have to watch out for are copyright and trademark infringement, Mark Siegmund, a Central Texas-based attorney who specializes in IP, told Fox News Digital.

“Copyright is essentially a bundle of rights given to an author of a work that allows them to control, protect it and exploit their artistic works,” Siegmund said. 

“And it only has to be a couple of things in order to be a protectable copyright. It has to be original and, in some sense, it has to be fixed, meaning not purely ethereal,” he added.

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Copyright protects literary works, musical works, dramatic works, recordings and anything else along those lines, said Siegmund.

Taylor Swift onstage during Eras Tour

In 2015, Taylor Swift came down on Etsy sellers by sending them cease-and-desist letters. The star has trademarked  (Buda Mendes/TAS23/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management )

“When you have a copyright, you have a lot of different rights,” Siegmund said. 

“You have the right to reproduce it, make derivative works of that copyright, distribute copies of that, and then, obviously, to keep others from doing it.”

A trademark, he added, can be a word, phrase or design — or combination of those — that identifies a particular good or service. 

“A good example is a logo,” he also said. “For instance, the Nike swoosh.” 

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In 2015, Taylor Swift came down on Etsy sellers by sending them cease-and-desist letters, which Siegmund said is usually a warning those individuals could be in violation of copyright laws. Earlier that year, Swift applied to trademark several phrases from 1989, including “this sick beat” and “party like it’s 1989.”

In 2007, Swift filed her first trademark application, which was her name, “Taylor Swift.” 

Since then, she’s filed at least 200 trademark applications that include everything from song lyrics to album covers to tour names, Siegmund said.

Taylor Swift Etsy shop merch split

Taylor Swift reportedly has filed quite a few trademark applications attached to her tour names, song lyrics, initials and more. (iStock; Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)

So, if people create merchandise and prints words or images on that merchandise, they must pay attention if those words or images have been trademarked by the artist or creator.

Siegmund said, however, that the creator does not own certain words or marks outright.

“You only have the rights to how that word is used within your particular goods or services,” he said. 

“How similar is the mark to your mark? Would the public be confused by it? And is the mark even within the same industry? So those are the kinds of things that people who are using famous rights have to watch out for.”

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For example, Siegmund said, Swift has a trademark registration for the word “Swiftie.” 

So, if someone created an unofficial T-shirt that has “Swiftie” printed on it, that person could be in violation of Swift’s intellectual property.

Friendship bracelets at Taylor Swift tour

Taylor Swift fans Tiana Kuhlmann, Anna Kuhlmann and Matthew Reed display their friendship bracelets before the world premiere of “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” movie at AMC Mission Valley 20 on Oct. 13, 2023 in San Diego. (Daniel Knighton/Getty Images)

One Reddit poster asked, “Is there any kind of fan-made merch that would indeed be legal and wouldn’t violate IP? Are there any TS fan-made items that could be allowed to be sold legally?”

It gets tricky, Siegmund said, when considering the concept of name, image, likeness (NIL).

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“People have the right to control commercial use of their name, image and likeness or other kinds of unique aspects of who they are,” he said.

“This could be another major concern for people in regard to Taylor Swift. If they’re using her name, for example, potentially the partial use of her name and product descriptions or titles or whatever could be seen as an attempt to profit from her identity.”

“And that would infringe on her right of publicity, which would be a problem,” Siegmund said.

Taylor Swift attends the 66th GRAMMY Awards

Taylor Swift attends the 66th GRAMMY Awards at Crypto.com Arena on Feb. 4, 2024 in Los Angeles, California. (Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

Also, merch makers cannot sell anything that implies that Taylor Swift or any other creator is associated with what they’re selling — unless, of course, they have her permission to do so. 

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That would also be a misuse of a right of publicity.

Taylor Swift playing piano at Eras Tour

One Taylor Swift fan on Reddit hopes the pop star opens “her own Etsy” shop so fans can legally sell merchandise. (Buda Mendes/TAS23/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management)

Some of Swift’s fans on Reddit commented that they respect artists’ rights, saying, “Yeah, it’s tough with the fan-made stuff, but gotta support artists, too.”

Others said they’d like the chance to work with the star.

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“I wish she would open her own Etsy for fan merch,” one person suggested. 

“Let folks use her lyrics etc. but have a team check them all first and charge fees etc. as her cut, the same way Etsy does. We’d have more variety, and she’d be supporting artists.” 

Another person agreed, “It would be awesome if she collaborated with fans!”

crowd at Taylor Swift Eras Tour

Fans enjoy Taylor Swift’s performance during The Eras Tour at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California, on Monday, Aug. 7, 2023. (Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Swift recently filed paperwork to trademark the phrase “TAYLOR-CON,” which means the star could soon be slapping her own label onto merchandise, according to a recent report by TMZ and the trademark application that was obtained by the news outlet.

Fox News Digital reached out to Swift’s publicist for comment.

Fox News Digital also reached out to Amazon and Walmart, as both sites sell Taylor Swift-themed merchandise.

For more Lifestyle articles, visit www.foxnews.com/lifestyle.


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