Taylor Swift and Kanye West have been feuding for seven years now, and even though they came close to reconciling around the time of the 2015 MTV VMAs, the pair’s beef has become nastier than ever and now includes West’s wife Kim Kardashian.
The war of Swift vs. West began when the rapper interrupted the singer’s acceptance speech at the award show when she beat out Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” for Best Female Video. The interruption led to a slump in West’s career and public image, something he didn’t fully come back from until he released My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy in 2010.
Flash forward to 2015 when the pair reunited at the VMAs where Swift presented West with the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award. They appeared to be publicly and privately reconciled until West debuted his latest album The Life of Pablo at Madison Square Garden and the lines, “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex/Why? I made that bitch famous” opened his song “Famous.” Swift stayed quiet until the Grammy Awards when she took a dig at West for trying to “undercut” her success as a woman. West responded through a leaked rant backstage at Saturday Night Live where he called her “fake ass.”
Kardashian officially entered the ring with last month’s GQ cover story, revealing the existence of recorded footage of Swift enthusiastically approving West’s lyrics over the phone. Previews for the July 17th episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians showed how the family discussed the interview, with Kardashian showing her fierce loyalty and protective nature for her husband. After the episode aired, she posted the recordings of the Swift-West phone call to Snapchat, which verified Kardashian’s comments but left more questions for fans of both the pop superstar and the celebrity couple.
Was it illegal for Kanye West to record the phone call and for Kim to post it?
According to Swift’s response to the Snapchat fiasco, she had no knowledge of the call being recorded. Kardashian hinted at a threat of legal action from Team Taylor in her GQ story, noting that her lawyers had insisted that they not only keep the footage under wraps but to also “destroy it.” Laws regarding recordings of phone calls vary by state. Most states and federal law permit a call to be recorded as long as one party consents to it, according to the Digital Media Law Project. West references Swift’s Nashville area code in the beginning, and Tennessee has a one-party consent law. New York also has a one-party consent law, but if West had called her from California, that state has a two-party consent law. (It is unclear which state West was in when he placed the call.) There are also questions of consent in relation to Snapchat. Kardashian probably could not air the footage on KUWTK since Swift would have needed to sign a release form. However, the temporal nature of Snapchat and the fact that all the 10-second videos she released on her account were posted by fans as opposed to her team, means that this could potentially leave a legal gray area if Swift were to take action against the Kardashian/West family.
Kardashian never spoke out on the drama between West and Swift until theGQ cover story was released last month. That left four full months of radio silence from the entrepreneur as her husband’s public image was being threatened once more following the leaked SNL audio. Though the outcome for West was not anywhere near as bad as it was following the 2009 VMA interaction, his new feud with Swift and the singer’s omission of a phone call occurring between the pair did not help the controversial star, who was in the midst of several social media-related feuds and blowouts. Kardashian’s timing, however, does seem fitting given a concern of Swift’s at the beginning of the leaked phone call. “I’m like this close to overexposure,” she said, seemingly citing her only concern with being referenced in the infamous song. Kardashian’s choice to wait until the feud had mostly blown over — not counting the controversial video for “Famous” where she was depicted naked alongside public figures like Donald Trump, George W. Bush, Rihanna and more, which Swift never responded to— may have been to also protect West from fighting back while he was also close to overexposure.
Did Kim edit the phone call at all?
Given the medium of Snapchat where videos can only be posted in 10-second increments, Kardashian must have edited out some portions of their conversation. It’s unclear what may have been left out but given the fact that Swift’s sentences seems to be posted in full, it may not be much at all. However, according to the singer’s claims, the footage is one-sided and she had been misled when it came to approving the lyrics, noting that West never played the song for her and that he never told her about the “that bitch” line in the song. It is unclear how much longer the pair talked, what they discussed and anything else that may have been potentially and even purposefully omitted to make West look better in the clip.
What does Rick Rubin know?
Rubin has stayed out of the feud, but Kardashian included him in her GQ statement, noting that he was present for the phone call alongside “respected people in the music business,” though it’s unclear whether they were in the room with West or were shown the footage at another time. In the Snapchat video, Rubin is seated next to West during the entire conversation though it appears that the producer is not paying attention. The big question is who else was there and if Rubin or any other collaborators weighed in on the conversation at hand. Also, since it is rare for an artist to go out of their way to get approval from someone they are singing or rapping about for specific lines and references, was West’s call encouraged by someone else in his camp or entirely his decision?
If this went to trial, what would this mean for the future of artists referencing other public and real-life figures in songs?
Musicians have rarely been faced with the same issues authors, screenwriters and playwrights are often faced with when it comes to portraying real-life or public figures. Writers in those fields can face lawsuits for defamation, invasion of privacy or misappropriation of the right of publicity, according to author and attorney Helen Sedwick who has chronicled these issues on her blog. Musicians and songwriters don’t typically face these types of issues, and if they did, Swift herself could have been faced with several lawsuits of this nature given her candid writing about past relationships in her own music. Even West could have been targeted numerous times for his own songs, which feature him tackling pop culture as well as his personal life, having also referenced Ray-J, his wife’s ex-boyfriend, on “Famous” as well. A recent case of a public figure suing a musician for a less-than-flattering lyric was Lindsay Lohan’s suit against Pitbull for the line “I got it locked up like Lindsay Lohan” from the song “Give Me Everything.” The case was dismissed in 2013 when the judge ruled that the song was protected under the First Amendment as a work of art.