University of South Dakota law professor Sean Kammer's friends told him they were unsure about the seriousness of his upcoming class on musical performer Taylor Swift.
"I understand this sounds ridiculous, at least at first glance," said Kammer, a Taylor Swift fan, or Swiftie, himself. "But it's not."
Kammer's class, called the Taylor Swift effect, is planned for the spring. It is believed to be the first law school class based on the famous American singer.
After attending a Swift concert in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in June, Kammer said he was inspired to develop the writing class. It is available for second- and third-year law students.
The class will study the artist's dealings with the law, including her rerecording of six albums and related copyright problems, Kammer said.
It will also examine how an individual's experiences and beliefs shape how they understand the law – much like how there are different understandings of her songs.
Law classes about popular culture are not uncommon. They also bring attention to schools that offer them. The television show The Wire inspired a number of criminal law classes over the years. In 2022, the University of Virginia School of Law offered a class on corporate law based on the show Succession.
Law classes centered on a single public person are rare, however. But Georgia State University College of Law is currently offering a class based on the legal life of musician Rick Ross.
Boston University law professor Jessica Silbey helped write a book on popular culture and the law. She said students are usually more interested when they study subjects such as sports, new technology and famous people.
Silbey teaches Swift's album rerecordings in her copyright class to teach about contract law in the music business. She said the singer's success story and what she has dealt with provide good lessons in the law.
South Dakota Law is not the first school to offer classes on Swift. The University of California at Berkeley recently announced an upcoming business class based on Swift's business experiences. Stanford, New York University, and the University of Texas have also offered Swift-inspired classes. But Kammer's class is the first legal exploration of her music and career.
Kammer also teaches legal history. He said he plans to examine some Swift songs to look into how the words of the songs and certain legal texts can be understood. He said his class will also look at good and bad qualities of methods for understanding the law.
I'm Jill Robbins.
Karen Sloan reported this story for Reuters. Gregory Stachel adapted the story for VOA Learning English.
__________________________________________________Words in This Story
ridiculous – adj. extremely silly or unreasonable
glance – n. a quick, uninterested look
inspire – v. to make (someone) want to do something: to give (someone) an idea about what to do or create
copyright – n. the legal right to be the only one to reproduce, publish, and sell a book or musical recording for a certain period of time
text –n. a piece of writing