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Lady A Versus Lady A…A Strange Case Indeed

In the current climate, there are many changes being made to alleviate racial tensions and correct choices that were insensitive to others. Such is the reason that the country group formerly known as Lady Antebellum has changed its name to Lady A. Rather than reference the period of time before the American Civil War when slavery was still practiced throughout the American South, they switched the name to the single initial A.

As an article in the British publication The Guardian explained, the group changed its name due “to the slavery connotations held by the word ‘antebellum,'” and reminded many that they had chosen the name because of the style of architecture of a home where they had a photoshoot early in their careers.

As quoted in the article, the band said, “When we set out together almost 14 years ago, we named our band after the southern ‘antebellum’ style home where we took our first photos. As musicians, it reminded us of all the music born in the south that influenced us … southern rock, blues, R&B, gospel and, of course, country.”

The change also came about when they realized that the name seemed a bit blind to “he injustices, inequality, and biases black women and men have always faced.”

So, Lady A they became, but there was a problem. What problem? The name was already trademarked by a Seattle-based blues and soul singer who had used the name for more than two decades.

So, the band sought to negotiate terms with the singer to also use the name, and the negotiations failed. The country group said that they are not infringing on Lady A’s trademark because they had applied for a trademark on Lady A in the year 2010, and no one opposed their application. Because Lady A, also known as Anita White, demanded a large case settlement from the group, and this led to a breakdown in the negotiations.

Instead of leaving it at that, the group is suing White and tweeted something that many felt was insensitive. They said “When we learned that Ms. White had also been performing under the name Lady A, we had heartfelt discussions with her about how we can all come together and make something special and beautiful out of this moment. We never even entertained the idea that she shouldn’t also be able to use the name Lady A, and never will—today’s action doesn’t change that.”

By “today’s action,” the band meant their brining a lawsuit against the singer. A “declaratory judgment lawsuit,” in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, it seeks to affirm its use of the name Lady A.

Does it seem fair for two musical acts to use the name? At the most basic level, it seems like there wouldn’t be much competition. However, and as Ms. White explains in an interview from Rolling Stone, she has “been buried in Google searches for ‘Lady A,’ whereas prior to last month, [I] was the only result for the name.”

She went on to explain her intended use for the funds she demanded if she were to hand over the trademark for her professional name, saying: “If you’re going to appropriate my name, I thought it was only fair I could rebrand myself with $5 million. I could help my community, I could help my church, I can help other artists. And that other $5 million was supposed to go to Black Lives Matter to help other artists with this very struggle.”

So, Lady A is suing the original Lady A in order to allow both acts to use the name. The country group says it wants nothing from Lady A the singer, except the right to use the name. The case has riled many and earned Lady A, the group, a bunch of new names…many of them made up of four-letter words.