Taylor Swift, Painter Spar Over Copyright Infringement Accusation

"This is just an unfortunate effort to extract more money and more publicity," singer's rep says as artist claims pop star offered "four-figure" amount

Taylor Swift has responded to an artist's claim that the pop star unfairly compensated her for using art without permission. Credit: Steve Granitz/WireImage/Getty

A spokesperson for Taylor Swift has issued a terse response to a visual artist who accused the pop star of unfairly compensating her for a painting Swift had used without permission.

On Halloween 2014, the singer posted a fan-made watercolor depiction of a fox alongside lyrics to her 1989 song "I Know Places." When artist Ally Burguieres, who created the fox image and sells prints of it for $45, learned that her painting had been appropriated (with the fan's signature adorning it), she asked for it to be taken down. Swift complied, but her response was not what Burguieres expected, especially considering how the singer has widely publicized her desire to champion artists' rights.

In an open letter to Swift, the painter alleged that it took months for Swift to offer her compensation. "After months of effort, I received an offer from you and your team that mentions no credit to me as the artist of the design, but does include payment of a 'four-figure' amount, with the stipulation that I must donate it all," she wrote. "Taylor, as a professional, would you agree to such terms from Apple, or Spotify? My work is my living ­– it is how I pay bills and support my family and employees."

Burguieres has since clarified to Rolling Stone that her lawyer alleged that Swift's lawyer wanted her to donate only "some" of the fee to animal causes. Swift's rep denies this in her statement, writing, "There was no requirement of a contribution to any charity."

Swift's team claims that Burguieres had not contacted Swift's office, but that they replied when they saw her posting on social media, taking it down and subsequently making her an offer. "Notwithstanding the huge publicity this has generated for Ms. Burguieres and her store, in early November, Ms. Swift's office made a fair offer of payment well above a reasonable licensing fee for the short time that the fan art was posted online," the rep tells Rolling Stone.

"[The artist's lawyer] promised to get back to us with an explanation of why she felt Ms. Burguieres was entitled to more money, but she never did that and the next we heard was Ms. Burguieres' new posting," the spokesperson continued. "We have tried on multiple occasions to address Ms. Burguieres' concerns, but these actions make it clear to us that this is just an unfortunate effort to extract more money and more publicity."

Burguieres has sent a statement to Rolling Stone in reply to Swift's missive, claiming that she had indeed made several attempts to contact the pop star. She also questioned why the singer would not give her attribution and said that she did not get any publicity from the misappropriation until she posted her open letter. Moreover, she stood by her claim that Swift's lawyer asked her to consider donating the fee to charity. (Burguieres' full response can be found at the bottom of this post.)

"Standing up for my rights does not mean I'm 'going after' you or anyone else," the painter wrote. "I have no desire to 'go after' anyone, and I do not believe that me standing up for my basic creative rights should be a problem for an artist such as yourself. I spoke with the artist who originally copied the design, and the issue has been resolved. What has not been resolved is your sharing of the pirated copy to millions of people, and your further compounding this mistake by refusing to officially credit me for the work you used, even going so far as to insult and discredit my intentions. I have only ever asked for what any artist knows is reasonable and fair, and in a way that does not target or [vilify] you, but does hold you accountable to a professional standard."

Read Swift's spokesperson's response in full:

A fan has stated that she created the watercolor drawing of a fox, added some of Taylor's lyrics and signed the artwork as her own, posting it. Ms. Swift, believing it to be the fan's original work, reposted the fan's art, with her own comment, continuing the social media conversation. Ms. Burguieres did not contact Taylor's office, but she posted on social media her claim that the fan had used her drawing. We found that posting, accepted it at face value and immediately took down Taylor's posting of the fan art. At no time during these postings did Ms. Burguieres contact our office directly.

Notwithstanding the huge publicity this has generated for Ms. Burguieres and her store, in early November, Ms. Swift's office made a fair offer of payment well above a reasonable licensing fee for the short time that the fan art was posted online. The offer was for a payment to Ms. Burguieres – there was no requirement of a contribution to any charity. Her lawyer further advised us that Ms. Burguieres chose to go after Taylor only, and not against the woman who has admitted she used Ms. Burguieres' work as inspiration. Ms. Burguieres' lawyer acknowledged Ms. Swift's action was unintentional, but rejected the offer. She promised to get back to us with an explanation of why she felt Ms. Burguieres was entitled to more money, but she never did that and the next we heard was Ms. Burguieres' new posting.

We have tried on multiple occasions to address Ms. Burguieres' concerns, but these actions make it clear to us that this is just an unfortunate effort to extract more money and more publicity.

Ally Burguieres' Full Response to Taylor Swift

To answer your statement about my letter, I am glad you and your team realized your mistake in posting the pirated copy of my work; however, I still wonder why you consistently refused to publicly correct the attribution and let people know it was mine? I made multiple attempts at direct contact.

You talk about the "huge publicity" this generated for me. I must point out that your original post, as posted, generated no publicity for me or my store. Hence why I requested you to please credit me as the artist. It was my open letter, and my refusal to be silenced, bullied and intimidated, that led to publicity. I stopped seeking fair publicity or payment from you when it became apparent neither you nor your team had an intention of staying true to your "Art is valuable and valuable things should be paid for" campaign. Perhaps you think it served its purpose, and no longer applies.

You told Apple Music's Zane Lowe that you were "struck with this overwhelming sense of fear" about the consequences. Did it ever occur to you I felt the same fear, and that instead of the decency with which Apple acquiesced to your demands, my simple requests are being met with contention and insult? I truly believe it’s a disservice to artists that you chose to call those who stand up for their rights greedy or ungrateful. It pains me to see you and your team use the name of independent artists to get better compensation for yourself, but then intimidate and belittle other artists when you're in the position to give credit and do the compensating.

You and your team claim to have made a "fair" offer. Regardless of whether "four figures" is fair, I stand by my open letter in that my lawyers relayed to me that your considered offer would include a stipulation of donation. They mentioned you even thought I should donate to an "animal charity" (presumably your team looked me up and found out I'm vegan). If I said no, you could publicly brush me off as denying charity money and not caring about my stated passions, and claim I was only looking for money and publicity. I'm not surprised you're denying the stipulation; it was misguided at best and insulting and calculating at worst.

Finally, standing up for my rights does not mean I’m "going after" you or anyone else. I have no desire to "go after" anyone, and I do not believe that me standing up for my basic creative rights should be a problem for an artist such as yourself. I spoke with the artist who originally copied the design, and the issue has been resolved. What has not been resolved is your sharing of the pirated copy to millions of people, and your further compounding this mistake by refusing to officially credit me for the work you used, even going so far as to insult and discredit my intentions. I have only ever asked for what any artist knows is reasonable and fair, and in a way that does not target or [vilify] you, but does hold you accountable to a professional standard.