Take Back the Night

“Take Back The Night” is the name of an internationally held, decentralized march and rally that raises awareness against sexual violence and rape culture in general. “Take Back The Night” rallies and candlelight vigils are popular amongst feminists groups on college campuses, and have been happening around the world since the late 70s. In 1999, The Take Back The Night Foundation was created, seeking to “end sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual abuse and all other forms of sexual violence,” reads the foundation’s website. “We serve to create safe communities and respectful relationships through awareness events and initiatives.”

So it came as a surprise to the Take Back The Night Foundation (and lots of feminists everywhere) when Justin Timberlake released a song last week using the same name. But of course, having nothing to do with the causes of the organization. “Everyone at Take Back the Night is really shocked, because normally, we get asked when people want to use the name,” Take Back the Night Foundation Executive Director Katherine Koestner told Radar. “Normally entities as large as Justin Timberlake do very kind and thoughtful things to support our cause.”

“We have some big concerns,” Koestner continued. “For example, all of a sudden on Wikipedia, Take Back the Night has a different definition. That’s not been helpful. The lyrics are definitely very sexual and not at all clearly anti-sexual violence. ‘Use me,’ for example, is not a great phrase for anyone affiliated with the organization.”

“We tried to contact him through his website and got no answer,” she said. “Then we sent him a letter Friday from our legal counsel saying ‘You used our name without our permission.’ They got back to us and said they’re sorry. His agent said ‘Justin’s a good guy! He’s a family man!’ They claimed he’d never heard of us before he wrote that song. I don’t know what country he’s been in. I suppose it could have slipped off his radar screen somehow. Somebody working for him definitely messed up.”

“Usually people are pretty mindful because no one is actually ‘for’ sexual assault,” she said. “This whole thing with Justin is just really unfortunate and we’re hoping it can be amicably resolved.”

Comments (38)
  1. Not to sound like a douche or anything, but… this anti-rape organization seems really full of themselves.

    • Not wanting to sound like a douche doesn’t keep you from sounding like one.

      • Not to be too awesome or anything, but I’m right. And I agree with awesome muffin man, duck bird dude. The organization does awesome work, and JT is no hero for women’s rights or respectable/dignified treatment thereof, but Take Back the Night shouldn’t act like they have the right to the generic phrase “take back the night.” any random pop singer could use that title for any sort of bland tune about partying/night life. Me no think JT’s awesome crew messed up on this. He didn’t use anyone’s name without permission.

        That awesome thing being said, I think the awesome org should’ve written a letter concerning his all nude women music video that dropped last week. Talk about objectification. Awesome org a bit less awesome for not picking the right battle. And awesome JT getting some karma. And awesome opossum…

        IS OUT. #AWESOME.

      • Oh come on! While pelicanface’s statement is generally correct, does it really apply to muffman here? A song title is not a protect-able thing (you cannot trademark or copyright a song title) and “take back the night” is indeed a generic phrase. Are you telling me that all artists should Google every single song title they plan to use to make sure an organization is not going to claim they own a phrase like that? That’s crazy. I’m sure we all – even muffy – can agree that rape is a terrible, terrible thing and that organizations doing something to battle it and to highlight women’s rights etc. is a very, very good thing…but this particular organization turning a coincidence into this mess is just a bit out of line. They do sound a bit full of themselves. JT clearly meant no disrespect and clearly was not referencing this organization.

        That being said, I don’t like the song much. No bias, yo.


  2. Completly understand their concern but it’s not a crime to have never heard about ‘em. They should contact wikipedia and ask to be featured on the results fo’ “Take Back the Night” search.

    • That’s what said, but everyone got mad at me. So nobody thought their tone was a little weird when they acted like it was literally unbelievable that someone hadn’t heard of their group?

  3. The first line of the song is “This was your city / You did it all and more / Broke every law except for one, babe…” Not sure who exactly wrote the words to the song or named it “Take Back the Night,” but it definitely struck me as suggestively distasteful the moment I heard it.

    • If you find that distasteful, I suggest you stay away from the work of The Rolling Stones.

      The phrase “Take Back The Night” existed before a group tried to copyright it. What the group is about is actually immaterial — common English words in combination are going to be used by different people in different ways, independently of each other.

      If you’re REALLY concerned about building a brand, try to name it something unique.

      Much ado about nothing. Shouldn’t hurt Timberlake or the group — in fact, the group is getting more attention by creating a “controversy,” although using phrases like ‘I don’t know what country he’s been in’ could hurt as much as help.

    • I’m not being sarcastic, facetious, humorous, disrespectful, etc. when I ask – What are you talking about? What is suggestively distasteful about that? What law do you think he’s referring to?

      What am I missing here?

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  5. I understand that the situation is unfortunate and all, but it’s pretty clear to me that it was unintentional. I don’t think you can fault JT; he wrote the kind of song he typically writes and happened to use the wrong chorus line.

    I like the idea of him maybe issuing a statement or apology and donating proceeds would be cool too. I just think it’s unfair to draw conclusions about JT out of what was pretty clearly a mistake.

  6. The only way to fix this is to make the most good happen from this accident.

    Already, this song has informed thousands of people about an organization doing good work. Maybe not in the way they would’ve wanted to be exposed, but I’m pretty sure nobody listening to this song is going to have a negative reaction knowing it shares its name with an organization promoting awareness to sexual abuse.

    So what are the options here. Looking above the idea to shelve the song could work. Omit it from the 20/20 Pt 2 and issue an apology. Not a bad idea, but the song is out there and it isn’t going away (we all read chapter one of our Internet textbooks, right?) So what else have we got?

    JT embraces his mistake and runs damage control. The most obvious route is to work WITH “Take Back The Night” and help spread their message. Considering his recent video for “Tunnelvision” and his lyrical subject matter in general, this could end up being mutually beneficial. Then, JT would be that guy who sings about getting into girl’s pants, shooting them into his bloodstream, etc. BUT HEY! He did those PSAs for “Take Back The Night” and showed up to speak for the organization at this event. That could do it?

    Unfortunately when you are at JT’s level of fame, simple accidents have serious consequences. Considering this guy came from the bowels of Mickey Mouse in the first place, I’m not too concerned that his camp is figuring out the way around this and it’ll be handled well. An apology is definitely needed, since apparently the group is none too pleased. As for the song…

    Could he just change the title? Change some lyrics? I don’t think that would work. I think if you go into a song with the organization in mind, you can read whatever you want to in the lyrics. (Shiiiit, remember how much I read into NUMBERS on some BoC teasers?) So I think analyzing the lyrics and making comparisons to sexual violence is missing the point.

    tl;dr “Take Back the Night” gets a new spokesperson.

  7. “Anti-Rape” is such an odd expression. Like “Anti-Cancer”. Not too many people are Pro-Rape.

  8. It’s a fairly generic phrase and they need to get over it. That said, Timberlake would be wise to donate the proceeds of the single to a charity that helps rape survivors.

  9. i don’t really see why this is such a big deal. obviously it was a good-faith mistake. obviously JT isn’t pro-rape. reading any further into it just seems silly to me.

    • This. I mean, if JT wrote “Take Back the Evening” instead, would anybody be batting an eye?

      • no bats would be had. for what it’s worth, i consider myself to be a member of the public not completely out of touch with the world, and i’ve never heard of this organization. so it seems plausible that i’m not the only one. i guess i would expect JT and his people to have a greater knowledge of charities, what with him being super rich and all, but seeing as how i too would have made the same mistake i can’t really hate on the man for it.

        and i also don’t think we should expect artists to preemptively google prospective song titles; that’s weird.

  10. People keep saying this is a generic phrase so it shouldn’t be a big deal, yet Take Back the Night has been named that for nearly forty years –– a pretty solid claim, I’d say. Plus, if Timberlake wrote a song called “Eatin’ Good in the Neighborhood” –– an awfully generic phrase –– and claimed to have never heard of Applebee’s, he’d still get the shit sued out of him. So why if it’s a non-profit that’s trying to keep the integrity of their name is it then “a big deal” for them to say, “Um, hey Timberlake… what the fuck?” Should they really just say, “You got us JT! Go ahead! Take back Take Back the Night! We weren’t doing much with it anyway!” I’m sorry, but my mind is absolutely blown by how much people in these comments have sympathized with Justin Timberlake over one of the most well known anti-rape organizations/events we have out there. It’s genuinely depressing.

    On a side note, Justin Timberlake absolutely should write a song called “Eatin’ Good in the Neighborhood.”

    • Right! Yeah, one of the things about this discussion that I don’t get is that it’s not like Justin Timberlake is some unknown dude, writing songs on his laptop and then just putting uploading them onto his Bandcamp. I mean, how many people do his songs go through before they’re released to the public? And there wasn’t anyone who was like “Oh hey, there’s also this anti-rape organization called Take Back the Night. Maybe this is in poor taste?” Really?
      Obviously I don’t know the whole story behind this song, maybe it was all just an innocent blunder. But to me, it just feels more like no one really cared enough about whether or not this would be in poor taste.

    • “Eatin’ Good in the Neighborhood” is not at all a generic phrase…unless you live in an Applebee’s, I guess. Nobody says that shit.

    • I don’t think anyone has a problem with the organization bringing attention to it, I think the issue is the way they went about it. If they had left it at something like “We hope Timberlake will use this as an opportunity to get involved in the organization” or “We recognize the incidental nature of the name confusion but we would appreciate if Timberlake could find a way to avoid overshadowing our organization and cause,” then people would likely be more sympathetic to their reaction.

      However acting like it’s ridiculous that somehow someone hasn’t heard of your organization and offhandedly mentioning that you got your legal department involved and bringing up “permission” don’t really give off a feeling that they are understanding and it comes off as unnecessarily aggressive.

      • Well here’s the thing, feminist anti-rape organizations are not often taken very seriously by corporate entities like RCA Records. Sometimes you have to call people out, and yeah, threatening legal action is the best way to make people pay attention. And I don’t think they give a shit if people feel like they’re being too “aggressive” or “not understanding.” They care about the institution they’ve been cultivating for decades and the attendant ideas they promote. And to paraphrase what blackdove24 mentioned above, JT songs go through a lot of people before they are released. It’s easy to feel disrespected when presumably none of the likely dozens of people who wrote and recorded the song, okayed it for release, worked on the marketing campaign, etc. ever said “hey, let’s ask for permission or maybe think about changing something.” Timberlake himself quite possibly had no idea, sure. But when you’re a women’s rights group trying to get the attention of the corporate music world you can’t be polite, and it’s bullshit to expect them to do so.

        • i see this more so as the anti-rape organization starting a meritless squabble in an effort to raise awareness about what they do (and hey, it worked). and i say this because, legally speaking, you don’t need to get someone’s permission just to simply use a phrase. trademark infringement only occurs when you use another entity’s phrase/logo/etc. in a confusingly similar manner – essentially, the name of the game is not misleading the public. so if JT started his own charity and called it “take back the night,” then yeah, they should sue the shit out of him. but in this instance, he’s got every right to merely name his song that, just as i would have every right to write a song called “nintendo” and put it up on the internet. now, what i can’t do is start making video game machines of my own and call those “nintendos.”

          so perhaps JT’s people did know about this organization, but didn’t care to ask for permission to use the name because they didn’t need to. i guess some might find that to be in bad taste – personally, i find hollow threats of frivolous legal action, ostensibly for the sake of promotion, to be much more distasteful. and the notion that JT should now be obligated to give this organization money? because they barked at him? come on now, that’s blood money. worst case repercussion, like kidchair said, should be that a PR guy gets fired because this has become a bad PR moment.

    • I do think it was surprisingly ignorant to use the name without checking what connotations it could imply. But, I don’t think it was intentional. Some PR guy should probably get fired, but JT shouldn’t get any flack.

      The org has every right to bring it up (in fact, doing so has garnered a healthy helping of positive publicity I would think), but I don’t think they have any ground to legally do much, or they would have done more than whine abou it. If JT wants to poney up some funds as a good gesture, that would be awesome.

      Otherwise, “Eatin’ Good In the Neighborhood should be the next single.

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  12. This is an example of a trademark infringement case that JT’s lawyers would likely not lose on the grounds that one is music, the name of a song specifically and it does not seek to gain notoriety from, infringe or build upon the popularity of the trademark holders. The spaces they occupy are so far from each other that it wouldn’t hold out in court. Conversely it seems the trademark holder seeks to gain from JT’s popularity, and financial gain (because already this issue has some media buzz and ideas of donating the songs profits that I’m sure the organizers of TBTN would be fine with).
    TBTN is an organization with quite an extesive history, a very positive mission statement and it’s cause is one we could (and should) all get behind and support. The confusion that may be created between this and the song is minimal (and any 12 year old girl could easily find the organization in a Google search containing JT’s song if they were looking for it though). He deserves a break. It seems some people think he owes them something, when in fact he doesn’t. It would be a good look for his publicity to support the organization in some way because of the coincidence. Maybe a commercial?

  13. Why is crania americana the only person in this thread who is making any sense. Anyone who went to college, lives near a college or has ever visited a college knows about Take Back the Night. They are that annoying group of girls that shout at you as you walk through the quad. They are the ones skipping football games and concerts to sit in a group and light candles. You just know about them. Listen, i like their cause but they are annoying as hell. Still, they have a legitimate claim here.

    Crania, I am a bit upset that you used the Applebee’s example because I honestly believe that they should be sued for approving such a blatant grammatically incorrect tagline.

    Okay… stop the presses. The head just exploded. I was going to say something along the lines of “imagine how bad JT would get sued if he wrote a song titled “I’m Lovin’ It” and tried to take on McDonalds. When I Googled the phrase I quickly found out that he DOES, in fact, have a song titled “I’m Lovin’ It” and I almost fell out of my chair…

    This guy just picks random advertising tag lines for song titles.

    Too much, I’m out.

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