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Heard on CultureShift

Simon Tam Just Wanted to Play Dance Rock. Then the Supreme Court Got Involved.

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Image credit: The Slants

Author and musician Simon Tam unexpectedly became a racial justice activist after starting the world’s only Asian-American dance rock band.

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In 2009, Simon Tam began for a legal battle to trademark the name of his band, The Slants. 

Tam, an Asian-American musician and activist, had chosen that name as a way to reclaim a term that had once been used as a racial slur against Asians. 

However, the U.S. Patent Office denied Tam’s request for a trademark on the band’s name due to a law barring copyright on names and other terms the government deems offensive. Taking the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, Tam nearly lost everything in his fight to change U.S. copyright law. The case was won in a dramatic unanimous vote after more than a decade of legal battles. 

Click the player above to hear CultureShift’s Amanda LeClaire speak with him about how art and activism can change history.

Tam will speak at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn on Saturday, November 9.



Amanda LeClaire, Host, CultureShift

Amanda LeClaire is host of CultureShift. She spent a few years in the southwest for Arizona Public Media.

amanda.leclaire@wdet.org Follow @amandalee_lec

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