FACT CHECK:   Are musicians Jay-Z and Beyonce attempting to buy up the rights to the Confederate flag to prevent its further use?

Claim:   Musicians Jay-Z and Beyonce are attempting to buy the rights to the Confederate flag to prevent its further use.

  FALSE

Origins:    On 7 July 2015 the web site Newswatch33 published an article titled “Jay-Z and Beyonce Attempt to Buy Rights to Confederate Flag to Prevent Further Use,” which reported that:

According to Ralph Hammerstein, an attorney representing Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter and Beyonce Knowles-Carter, the couple is attempting to purchase rights to the Confederate flag to prevent further use of the flag on merchandise. According to Hammerstein, the couple is “in the works” of purchasing all resell rights to the confederate flag.

“My clients are adamant about purchasing the rights to the Rebel Confederate flag. They have expressed deep concern regarding the flag and how it is tearing apart our nation. Mr. and Mrs. Carter wants to assist in the abolishment of the flag by purchasing the resell rights to the Confederate flag. If my clients are successful, purchasing the rights would mean that anyone who wants to produce merchandise using the Confederate flag would have to get permission from Mr. and Mrs. Carter. My clients have expressed that they are not looking to profit from the use of the flag but rather prevent any further use of the flag on merchandise,” according to Hammerstein.

This story was nothing more than yet another bit of fake news from NewsWatch33, a web site that emerged on social media just after the very similar NewsWatch28 fake news site was shuttered (possibly as part of a plot to skirt Facebook’s crackdown on fake news articles). Before publishing the above-linked article, the site agitated Facebook and Twitter users by fabricating tales about a white supremacist group that supposedly raised $4 million for the defense of Charleston shooting suspect Dylann Roof and about a girl who was supposedly electrocuted by iPhone ear buds.

This story echoed other (fictional) urban legends about prominent entertainment figures attempting to buy up the rights to cultural symbols associated with racism in order the keep them out of the public view, such as one about comedian Bill Cosby’s supposedly having purchased the rights to the Our Gang/Little Rascals film shorts, or CNN founder Ted Turner’s allegedly having snared the rights to The Dukes of Hazzard television series — both with the intent of withholding them from any future broadcasting airings.

In this case, however, the rights to the symbol in question could not be bought up by any party, as no one holds a legitimate trademark to the design of the Confederate flag.

Last updated:      8 July 2015

Originally published:    8 July 2015