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| 1 minute read

Why is Taylor Swift re-recording her albums?

In a word, copyright. 

You cannot have missed the news that Taylor Swift has just released 1989 (Taylor's Version), the latest of her re-recorded albums. She is doing so in an effort to ‘reclaim’ ownership of copyright in the master recordings of her musical works, following their sale by her former management company to an industry executive for $300 million in 2019 . 

Copyright owners have exclusive rights and can authorise others to reproduce their works. As Taylor Swift does not own her original master recordings, she cannot fully dictate how they are exploited and she does not receive payment when they are played.

Taylor Swift states she was not given the opportunity to purchase her master recordings when they were sold in 2019, sparking her mission to re-record her albums released prior to 2019 and reclaim her work. 

But wouldn't re-recording (i.e. ‘copying’) the songs be copyright infringement?

This re-recording project is possible because copyright can simultaneously exist in different elements of a song, for example:

  • The music
  • The lyrics
  • A master recording of those elements in combination.

In a nutshell; because Taylor Swift wrote all her songs, she retained the copyright in the music and the lyrics. This gives her the right to use those elements of the original work to re-record the songs and create a new master recording - one whose copyright she owns. 

To confirm, the original master recordings still exist. Going forwards fans will be able to choose which version they listen to, and many have picked up on subtle differences between the two master copies in light of the singer's maturing voice in the intervening years. 

Fans will tell you though that true Swifties listen to Taylor's Version.



Her ongoing project to revisit and reclaim her work started after music mogul Scooter Braun bought the rights to her past recordings in 2019.


copyright, commercial ip & contracts, creative industries