Queen's to launch Taylor Swift law class this fall

Taylor Swift performs onstage for the opening night of
Taylor Swift performs onstage for the opening night of

A professor at Queen's University is launching a Taylor Swift-themed law course this September to make entertainment law more relatable and relevant for students.

A self-described Swiftie, Mohamed Khimji is also a professor of business law at the Kingston, Ont., university and will be teaching "Law (Taylor's Version)" in the fall.

Khimji said he expects the demand for spots in the class will be high.

He said the idea came to him while discussing Swift's re-recordings with a colleague.

"She asked me why Taylor re-recorded her albums, and I started explaining the business and the legal reasons why an artists would want to do that," Khimji told CBC Ontario Morning.

"It made me think my students would be interested in knowing this as well."

Khimji's class will focus on entertainment law, using Swift's career and her legal battles to highlight and analyze topics like trademarks, copyright and contracts.

He said her re-recordings, in particular, should be studied in an academic setting for the impact they've had on the music industry.

"They've changed how record companies and musicians negotiate terms and how legal agreements are done," he said.

Lots of legal history to draw from

In 2019, Swift's former record label Big Machine Records was purchased along with the masters to her first six albums.

Swift publicly spoke out against the sale, arguing that she was not given a chance to buy back her work.

It resulted in her decision to re-record her first six albums, and as of April 2024. she'd released the new "Taylor's versions" of her albums Fearless, Speak Now, Red and 1989.

Khimji said Swift's well-documented legal battles — which also include being sued twice for copyright over the lyrics of her song "Shake it Off" — will help his students understand how the law works outside of the classroom.

It's not the only Taylor Swift-themed class Queen's has offered, however: in 2022, the Kingston, Ont., university featured a course focused on Swift's songwriting and literary prowess.

Shook off skepticism about class

By incorporating pop culture into law courses, Khimji said the material becomes more relatable and engaging.

His course also meshes with the goal of upper-year elective classes, he said: to give students a good sense of how they'll be applying their knowledge after they graduate.

"Being a Swiftie myself, I just assumed everybody would be as excited as I was," Khimji said. "There's always going to be skepticism when you're going to use pop culture at a professional school."

He said the skepticism came from colleagues wanting to verify there was enough substance to warrant a full class centred around Taylor Swift.

Khimji said that skepticism didn't bother him, however. The course has now been given the green light and will be offered to Queen's students starting this September.

"As Taylor Swift would say: haters gonna hate, you just gotta shake it off," he said. "And that's what I did."