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Taylor Swift Threatens Lawsuit Against Critic, ACLU Issues Challenge

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is challenging lawsuit threats made by Taylor Swift and her lawyer against a Northern California blogger.

On Sept. 5, Meghan Herning, an editor for the website PopFront, posted an article titled  “Swiftly to the alt-right: Taylor subtly gets the lower case kkk in formation,” which called for Swift to publicly denounce white supremacy after many white supremacists and members of the alt-right have co-opted her music as messages of support for their cause. The article is critical of Swift, reading that “silence in the face of injustice means support for the oppressor.”

Herning received a letter from Swift’s lawyer on Oct. 25 demanding that PopFront issue a retraction and take the story down by Oct. 24, a day before the letter is dated. The letter also privately declared the singer’s denouncement of the white supremacist movement, but demanded that Herning not publish it under copyright protection.

The ACLU has since published the letter, claiming in a letter of their own that copyright law does not apply because “this is not a commercial use, and there is no market for this letter, in part because it is tied to the facts of this specific case.”

The letter takes subtle jabs at some of Swift’s lyrics, saying that “criticism is never pleasant, but a celebrity has to shake it off, even if the critique may damage her reputation,” and that “applying these fundamental constitutional principles to your four ‘hideous falsehoods’ shows that not even in your wildest dreams can they constitute defamation.”

After she received the letter, Herning contacted the  ACLU of Northern California for help. “The press should not be bullied by high-paid lawyers or frightened into submission by legal jargon,” Herning said. “These scare tactics may have worked for Taylor in the past, but I am not backing down.”

ACLU attorneys have determined that there is no legal basis to Swift’s threat of a lawsuit, largely because Herning’s piece is based on opinion, which is protected under the First Amendment.

“This is a completely unsupported attempt to suppress constitutionally protected speech,” said ACLU of Northern California attorney Michael Risher.

The ACLU has also requested that Swift and her attorneys send a letter by Nov. 13 stating that they will not bring charges against Herning.

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