Lady Antebellum is now “Lady A.” But a veteran blues singer is too

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Seattle blues singer Lady A had just retired from work when a bombardment of phone messages from friends, fans and producers all came shouting the same thing: her name had been stolen.

Earlier in the day, the Grammy-winning country trio Lady Antebellum – whose name had been criticized for associating romantic ideas with pre-war South American slavery – announced that they were changing name to become Lady A in the light of a rise in national power. conversation about racism. Lady Antebellum quickly made the changes on social media and distribution platforms, including Spotify and Apple Music, and the group’s website also announced their re-creation as Lady A. But according to Lady A of Seattle, neither the group neither any member of their team contacted her. before making the change.

This Lady A – a 61-year-old black woman whose real name is Anita White – has been playing blues under the name for over 20 years. She started singing as a gospel performer in church and started going by Lady A for karaoke nights in the 80s. She released several albums with the name, and in addition to her day job with Seattle Public Utilities, she is preparing to release another album, Lady A: Live in New Orleans, for his birthday on July 18.

White tells Rolling stone she is frustrated that Lady Antebellum did not go home before making a decision, stressing the irony of changing a name for racial equality while taking another one from a black interpreter. ” It’s my life. Lady A is my brand, I have been using it for over 20 years and I am proud of what I have done, “she said, her voice broken. “It’s too much right now. They use the name because of a Black Lives Matter incident which, for them, is only an instant. If it mattered, it would have already mattered to them. It shouldn’t have taken George Floyd to die for them to realize that their name had a slave reference.

“This is an opportunity for them to pretend that they are not racist or to pretend that it means something to them,” she added. “If they were, they would have done research. And I’m not happy with that. You easily found me on Spotify – why not them? ”

A representative of Lady Antebellum said on Friday morning that the group was not aware of the other artist and planned to contact her.

White has long been an advocate for social change. She did not participate in the protests surrounding the murder of George Floyd by the police for the sake of the current health crisis – she and her sisters regularly visit their 83-year-old mother – but she is preparing a panel on Zoom on 27 June with white people and minority colleagues who discuss the role of white people in race conversations. She has written songs about racial injustice such as the death of Trayvon Martin, and says that she changed some of the lyrics to an upcoming song in response to the death of Floyd. This song and the name of its next panel are called “The Truth Is Loud”.

The problem is the possibility of trademark infringement. “Just like other products and services on the market such as Nike or McDonald’s, group names can be protected by trademark law,” said Wesley Lewis, intellectual property attorney.

“It’s about who is the first to use a name. The size of the audience is irrelevant, “said Bob Celestin, a longtime music lawyer who represented Pusha T and Missy Elliott. “And the question is, does the original Lady A have a trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office? If she does, she can go ahead and sue Lady Antebellum for the offense. Otherwise, it still has a common law mark and it can still show that it has used the name in commerce – discs, posters, flyers – for several years. She was the first to use the trademark commercially, which gave her superior rights over the name. ”

Celestin adds that if two artists who work in different genres end up with the same name, they can conclude a coexistence agreement that allows the two groups to market music under the name recognizing the slim chance of confusion. “But you could say that the blues is the foundation of the country, so they are very close in genre, and if they are close in genre, there is a lot more confusion in the market,” he said.

“I’m not going to stop using my name. For them, not even reaching out is a pure privilege ”- Anita White, known professionally as Lady A

Lady A of Seattle – who made her debut in a Motown Revue group in the 1980s – says that she owns a trademark for Lady A LLC but does not know where it is from a legal perspective; she will speak with a lawyer next week to discuss her options. ” I do not know if [the new Lady A] are going to give me a cease-and-desist. I don’t know how they would react. But I’m not going to stop using my name, “said White. “For them, not even reaching out is a pure privilege. I’m not going to bed and let this happen to me. But now it’s up to me to prove that my name is mine, and I don’t even know how much I will have to spend to keep it. ”

If both parties end up going to court, Célestin says a group will likely have to change their name. The new Lady A may also have to pay the singer in Seattle if there is evidence of damage. “Whenever you sue someone, you have to show that you have been injured,” he said. “So you were damaged, and how?” This problem with names is not too common because it is easy to do a Google search. I tell my customers to search Google, GoDaddy, and the trademark office before using a name. ”

Although such clashes are rare, some artists have had to change their names in the past due to the doubling. The British group The Charlatans, for example, is known in North America as Charlatans UK due to a conflict with a Californian folk psychedelic group previously named Charlatans.

The Lady A trio has been publishing music under the nickname Lady Antebellum since 2006, but said it decided to change its name after considering its possible connotations. “We are deeply sorry for the harm it caused,” group member Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood wrote in an Instagram article on Thursday. “We have watched and listened more than ever in recent weeks, and our hearts have been moved with conviction, our eyes wide open on the injustices, inequalities and prejudices that black women and men have always faced and continue to do. face every day. Now blind spots that we never even knew existed have been revealed. “



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