The questions started coming almost immediately after Beyoncé dropped her country album earlier this month. People wanted to know if the Baltimore design company that Allison Tipton manages was responsible for the poster promoting the tracks on the album.

Tipton hopped on the internet and searched for the poster and instantly saw the similarities — clear as day. The bursts of outlined shapes — a hallmark of the company’s designs — but this time in red, white, and blue.

And it didn’t stop there.

There was also the bold wood type, vivid hand-lettering, black and white photos of the artists (often as silhouettes or floating heads). The track names on the “Cowboy Carter” poster and release date were located near the top of the page, which is where her company, Globe Collection and Press at MICA typically would have presented the date and venue. The only difference was that instead of the track names, Globe would have traditionally highlighted some of the biggest artists in Black music history — such as Tina Turner and Marvin Gaye.

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Beyoncé's poster was dripping with Globe’s influence and was a dead ringer for Globe’s past work, said Tipton, the manager of Global Collection. And imitation was not the hugest form of flattery for Tipton, as the saying goes.

“It’s clearly identifiable and reads as Globe-influenced,” said Tipton. ”Globe’s style is distinct enough that numerous friends, colleagues, Instagram followers, and even an editor at The Banner recognized the track list as Globe. It is not one element that makes it distinctly Globe; it is how the combination of type styles, visual elements, and layout are used together. … They are obviously a fan of the style.”

Tipton’s company doesn’t intend to sue anyone over the likeness. Instead, she wants the superstar to give credit where credit is due and acknowledge the work of her small company. In the process of that acknowledgment, Tipton hopes that Beyoncé will also highlight the work the company has done on behalf of Black music.

Globe has made unmistakable posters and signage for the past 81 years, producing work for everyone from Turner — who used to personally call — and Aretha Franklin to Gaye and James Brown. And in a twist of fate, the company has even done past work featuring Beyoncé when she was a part of Destiny’s Child and a younger Jay-Z, Tipton said.

At its height, Globe, which was taken over by the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in 2011, printed music posters for more than 20 clients a day.

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Tipton said that she has reached out to the artistic director for Parkwood Entertainment — the management, production, entertainment company and record label that Beyonce founded 2010. They haven’t yet responded. Parkwood also didn’t return calls from The Baltimore Banner. Tipton said a lawsuit is not in her company’s best interest.

“That’s very expensive. We’re way more interested in working with artists than going after people,” Tipton said. “A good copyright lawyer could pursue them. But that’s not our goal. We’re not litigious in that way.”

Globe Collection and Press at MICA on Tuesday, April 2, 2024. (Kylie Cooper/The Baltimore Banner)

Legality of it all

Globe Collection has no copyright on any of the posters similar to Beyoncé's creation so it would be hard to pursue a copyright infringement case and, in general, proving those cases can be hard.

“Copyright protects individual expression — a particular visual image, a particular song, a particular photograph, a particular poster. It does not protect style. It does not protect ideas,” said Adam Holofcener, executive director of Maryland Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, a nonprofit organization that provides pro bono legal services and education to local artists. Holofcener added that if Globe had a copyright for an exact poster, they would have a better case. “Then we would potentially have an ability to analyze expression next to expression.”

Even without copyrights, Tipton contends the Beyoncé poster liberally took the Globe’s “style, typographic choices, the elements used and the hierarchy of how they are arranged in the composition.”

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If the company were ever to decide to go to court, Holofcener said Globe could first look at trade dress, which takes into account the commercial look and feel of a product.

While he doesn’t believe the company has a strong copyright infringement claim, he added that so many copyright infringement cases are won even if they may not seem like great cases, referencing a Supreme Court decision where the court ruled in favor of celebrity photographer Lynn Goldsmith in a copyright infringement claim against Andy Warhol. The court ruled that the use of use of a photograph of Prince by Goldsmith as a magazine cover was not fair use. The Andy Warhol Foundation eventually agreed to pay Goldsmith more than $21,000.

Beyoncé as “Cowboy Carter” on March 29. (Courtesy of Beyoncé / Parkwood)

‘Cowboy Carter’s’ legacy

Aside from the commercial success of “Texas Hold ‘Em’” — the first hit single from the album, which has sat atop the country music charts for the past two months — the album has sparked conversations about race and pop culture and opened up new opportunities for the Black musicians and artists featured on the album. A mention or nod from Beyoncé could make a career or even start a fashion trend; sales of cowboy boots, for example, increased by 20% week over week since the album’s launch.

The same type of ripple affect could also happen if credit were given to a design company like Globe, with roots in promoting Black musicians.

The album is “so important” to conversations about race, credit, and representation, said Stephanie Shonekan, University of Maryland College Park’s dean of the College of Arts and Humanities, pointing out that country music’s origins are deeply rooted in Black culture, but Beyoncé hasn’t received the warmest reception from country music circles.

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“As the months move on and we see more hear more from this album, there will be more hysteria and some hostility and some anxiety about the fact that Beyoncé is doing this so well,” she said.

Old concert posters by Globe are seen at Globe Collection and Press at MICA on Tuesday, April 2, 2024. The tracklist poster for Beyoncé’s latest album, “Cowboy Carter,” has similar design elements to Globe’s posters. (Kylie Cooper/The Baltimore Banner)
Globe’s logo is printed at the bottom of one of their old concert posters, as seen at Globe Collection and Press at MICA on Tuesday, April 2, 2024. (Kylie Cooper/The Baltimore Banner)
A concert ticket designed by Globe for the 1996 Super Summer Jam Explosion in Baltimore, starring Jay-Z and Foxxy Brown, is seen at Globe Collection and Press at MICA on Tuesday, April 2, 2024. (Kylie Cooper/The Baltimore Banner)

Globe’s history

During its eight decades of work, Globe has been a go-to for Black entertainers.

The company’s history stretches back to the Chitlin’ Circuit of the segregation era when Black performers went on tours performing at venues that would welcome them, including the Royal Theatre in Baltimore.

The Globe’s previous owners, who were Jewish and Italian, were not unfamiliar with being the victims of discrimination, according to Tipton.

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“They didn’t turn Black artists away,” Tipton said.

When artists — particularly as huge as Beyoncé — skip over the work of shops like Globe, they are essentially contributing to the erasure of historical moments like this, Tipton said.

Shonekan said she’s fascinated by the possible Globe connection. She hopes it will be resolved amicably.

“I think that Beyoncé has done a good job of at least recognizing pioneers. She does bring in pioneers — Black and white. In other projects she has done right by the people. Black Is King is an example with African artists,” she said. “I’m optimistic and have confidence that she will do by right by what sounds like a really wonderful, historical icon of Black music right here in our backyard.”

John-John Williams IV is a diversity, equity and inclusion reporter at The Baltimore Banner. A native of Syracuse, N.Y. and a graduate of Howard University, he has lived in Baltimore for the past 17 years.

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