15 July 2013

Take Back The Night and Justin Timberlake

Have you heard about this controversy about Justin Timberlake’s new single? It’s a fun, disco-y song called ‘Take Back The Night” that recalls late-‘70s Michael Jackson.

The anti-abuse organization with the same name has come after Timberlake, threatening him with legal action for not asking permission to use their name. 

From its website, it looks like Take Back the Night does great work combatting a horrible problem. It cites stats that one in three women will be “beaten, forced into sex or abused in her lifetime,” and that less than 50% of these crimes are reported to police. 

An international movement, TBTN seeks “to create safe communities and respectful relationships through awareness events and initiatives,” its site continues. Throughout its history, it has organized events protesting all manner of actions that threaten women, including domestic violence, rape, and murder. It is especially strong on college campuses. Its next event will be a Take Back The Night Walk in Ontario in Sept. 19.

All its good work aside, its beef with Timberlake feels like a publicity ploy —and one that worked since I’m donating today’s money to Take Back The Night. First off, Timberlake has done nothing wrong.  Trademark law is confusing, but if I wanted to write a song called “United Way,” I don’t think there’s a court in the land that would say I had infringed upon the charity organization’s name (this is however, different than if I wanted to use the product name "Nyquil" in a song, as They Might Be Giants found out, or Kanye West discovered when he changed a song's title from "Thera-flu," but that's a much longer legal issue).  Timberlake has handled the situation beautifully and said he didn’t know anything about Take Back The Night (neither did I before this little tempest brewed up) and there’s no relationship between the organization and his sexy little song. In the nicest way possible, he suggests, and I totally agree, that the coincidence between his song title and the organization may bring “more awareness” to this cause, one he says “we should all rally around.” 

Take Back The Night is a worthy organization, and I imagine, just as I’m giving to it, the publicity its protestations have received will land it some donations. Instead of condemning Timberlake, which I think they are totally misguided in doing, they should be sending him a thank you note. In fact, instead of sending me one for my donation, they can send mine straight to him since he’s responsible for my choosing them today. And keep up the good work. 

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