Legal Battles

How Social Media Misconstrued Lady A, Formerly Lady Antebellum’s, Lawsuit

Imagine a new world in which Lady A is short for 'Lady Antifa."
Imagine a new world in which Lady A is short for 'Lady Antifa." Zqvol/Flickr/Wikimedia Commons
Here in the news business, we have a certain affinity for the internet acronym “RTFA,” which stands for “Read the fucking article” (or “read the featured article,” if you’re a softie who insists on a bowdlerized version).

Misinformation in the era of “fake news” often parasitically festers because people have a tendency to arrive at their own conclusions without reading news stories and adequately briefing themselves on the matter. This can be largely attributed to a popular, yet subliminal misconception that headlines give readers all the information they need.

In June, country outfit Lady Antebellum announced they would change the band's name to "Lady A," as the word "antebellum" is often used to describe the pre-war South. The band declared they were "regretful and embarrassed" that they'd failed to consider the message implicit in their name.

The move upset a Black gospel singer from Seattle, Anita White, who has performed under the stage name "Lady A" for two decades.

On June 17, we made the case that if Lady A wanted to make a true political statement, the band should change its name to "Lady Antifa."

This week, headlines far and wide broke the news that the band formerly known as Lady Antebellum is suing Lady A over the rights to the name. This upset everyone. People on social media saw a Pitchfork article titled, “Lady A, Formerly Lady Antebellum, Sue Seattle Blues Singer Lady A” and thought that the band was trying to steal the rights to White's stage name.

Take, for example, these tweets:
Left- and right-wingers alike have taken to Twitter to call out the band for “performative wokeness” in their decision to change their name to something more racially sensitive, meanwhile filing a lawsuit against a Black artist who performed under the name first.

Sample tweets include "Let's talk about privilege" and "Lady Antebellum changing their name to Lady A to be 'woke' with BLM only to SUE AN ACTUAL BLACK ARTIST who already has that name proves that the elite do NOT care about 'equality' they care about feeling better about themselves while still making their money!" from Graham Allen, a well-known podcaster.

Thanks to the magic of headlines, the optics for the lawsuit reflect a virtue-signaling band intent on mercilessly trying to steal the rights to a Black artist’s name, but if people actually RTFA, the discussion framed around the dispute would sound completely different.

For one, the band operates under a limited liability company named “Lady A Entertainment LLC,” and it has been a registered trademark since January 2011. The court documents for the suit explicitly state, “Plaintiffs seek a declaratory judgment that, among other things, their use of their trademarks incorporating ‘Lady A’ do not infringe any of White’s alleged trademark rights in ‘Lady A.’ Plaintiffs do not seek monetary damages through this action.”

The lawsuit hinges rather strongly on the key detail that the band has interchangeably called itself Lady A as early as 2006. Records from the band’s official website show them using the name in an official capacity as early as 2008. White still performed under that name long before the band did, but there was never a dispute between the two parties until last month.

The band clearly owns the trademark to the name “Lady A,” so they probably could have gotten away with not even reaching out to White, but per an official statement issued Wednesday, “[White] and her team have demanded a $10 million payment, so reluctantly we have come to the conclusion that we need to ask a court to affirm our right to continue to use the name Lady A, a trademark we have held for many years.”

In other words, they tried to work something out, but the negotiations reached an impasse, so now they’re asking a judge to weigh in on the matter.

Moral of the story: RTFA. And if you want to arrive at your own conclusion on the matter, RTFCD below. 

Lady A v Lady A by Pitchfork News on Scribd

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Garrett Gravley was born and grew up in Dallas. He mostly writes about music, but veers into arts and culture, local news and politics. He is a graduate of the University of North Texas and has written for the Dallas Observer since October 2018.