Blues Singer Lady A Objects to Lady A’s Name Change: ‘I’m Not Going to Lay Down and Let This Happen’
Lady Antebellum may have inadvertently infringed upon another artist's legal rights when the hitmaking country trio announced they were changing their name to Lady A. Rolling Stone reports that a blues singer from Seattle has been performing under that name for more than two decades, and she doesn't intend to give it up.
The multi-platinum country trio consisting of Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood announced their decision to drop "Antebellum" from their name and shorten it to Lady A on Thursday (June 11), citing the fact that "ante bellum" means "before the war" ... in this case, the Civil War.
"...We are regretful and embarrassed to say that we did not take into account the associations that weigh down this word referring to the period of history before the Civil War, which includes slavery," they said in part in explaining the name change.
Lady A has long been fans' nickname for the country band, but it appears the group and its team might not have done the appropriate research to make sure the name was not already in legal use before announcing their decision to officially adopt it. In an interview with Rolling Stone, 64-year-old blues singer Anita White, who's performed under the Lady A moniker for more than 20 years, expresses disgust not only that they moved forward without consulting her, but that they appropriated the name of a black performer in what she says is a PR move geared toward showing solidarity with the black community after the death of George Floyd.
"This is my life. Lady A is my brand, I’ve used it for over 20 years, and I’m proud of what I’ve done," the blues-singing Lady A tells Rolling Stone. "This is too much right now. They’re using the name because of a Black Lives Matter incident that, for them, is just a moment in time. If it mattered, it would have mattered to them before. It shouldn’t have taken George Floyd to die for them to realize that their name had a slave reference to it."
Pointing out that it's easy enough to find her pre-existing recordings on Spotify and elsewhere online, she adds, "It’s an opportunity for them to pretend they’re not racist or pretend this means something to them. If it did, they would’ve done some research. And I’m not happy about that."
Lady A says she intends to meet with a lawyer next week to go over her legal options. She tells Rolling Stone she holds a business trademark for Lady A LLC, but it's unclear if she actually owns the name. Music attorney Bob Celestin tells RS that the legal issue is not which act is better-known.
"It’s about who is first to use a name," he states. "And the question is, does the original Lady A have a trademark registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office? If she does, she can go ahead and sue Lady Antebellum for infringement."
Even if she doesn't, he adds, she holds a "common law trademark" because she can demonstrate that she used the name in commerce years before the country trio. And while the two parties could come to an agreement under which they could both continue with the same name, Celestin says that might not be likely in this instance.
Still, "I'm not about to stop using my name," Lady A says. "I'm not going to lay down and let this happen to me. But now the burden of proof is on me to prove that my name is in fact mine, and I don't even know how much I'll have to spend to keep it."
Representatives for the country trio told Rolling Stone on Friday morning that they were unaware of White and planned to contact her. Reps for the trio had not responded to Taste of Country's request for further comment at publication time.
The members of the country trio have yet to comment on Rolling Stone's report or the other artist called Lady A. Their full statement in announcing their name change is below:
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