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JibJab Wins - 'This Land' is Public Domain 628

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the well-that-was-easy dept.
The Importance of writes "JibJab, creators of the hilarious parody of Woody Guthrie's 'This Land is Your Land' featuring Pres. Bush and Sen. Kerry, were first threatened with a lawsuit and then, with the help of EFF, went to court first in a pre-emptive strike. Well, EFF discovered that the song has actually been in the public domain since 1973 because it was first published in a songbook [PDF] in 1945 and the copyright was never renewed. The case has now been settled. Here are some addtional links."
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JibJab Wins - 'This Land' is Public Domain

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  • by garcia (6573) * on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @10:17AM (#10068391) Homepage
    Because of this ruling companies are going to have even more fodder to protect their copyrights well into the future. "Look! People are making asses out of our country's leaders! We cannot have this. These men are upstanding citizens that deserve international respect!"

    I thought that no matter what parody was protected regardless of copyright? Isn't that how Weird Al operates? Oh wait, I forgot, the government doesn't work for the people. The government is employed by the corporations. I'll go and take my seat in the corner again.
    • by Scrameustache (459504) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @10:20AM (#10068435) Homepage Journal
      I thought that no matter what parody was protected regardless of copyright? Isn't that how Weird Al operates?

      Nope, Al's lawyer ask for permission first.
      • The lawyers do ask, but they don't have to. It's a matter of courtesy more than anything else.

        There's at least one instance, "Amish Paradise", where the original artist (Coolio) denied permission and Weird Al went ahead with it anyway. As it turns out, several Amish communities were also horribly offended by the song, but it's against their beliefs to sue him, so they haven't done anything about it.
        • And exactly what could they sue for? And how did they even hear it, did Al go play it for them live or something?

          Jaysyn
          • by jridley (9305) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @10:46AM (#10068760)
            Amish teens are given free reign to experiment for some period of time (a few years, I think) before they become adults. If you go to amish country, you can see teens driving the buggy with a boom box blaring next to them, hanging out, etc.

            The amish want their kids to make the choice to follow their ways with full knowledge; they don't want people in their community who feel that they weren't given a choice and would feel resentful.
            • by nuggetman (242645) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @10:49AM (#10068792) Homepage
              Imagine that huh? The most primitive people around actually give their kids choice of their beliefs.
              • by gowen (141411) <gwowen@gmail.com> on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @10:56AM (#10068856) Homepage Journal
                Well, thats only paradoxical if you conflate technological "primitiveness" with moral, spiritual and intellectual "primitiveness".
              • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @11:22AM (#10069248)
                The Amish are actually better educated than 99% of americans. When a family of Amish came over to tear down a barn the kids worked hard all day, were very respectful to everyone and when I introduced my wife to them and they found out that she was from Pakistan they knew where that country was and what language was spoken there. They knew that the dominant religion was Muslem, but that the peoples there were not Arabs. They knew that India bordered Pakistan and the problems the two counties had historically had.

                Many adults in the hick area we lived in couldn't remember where she was from after repeatedly being told, they kept on confusing Pakistan and the Philipines and had no clear idea of the difference between the two countries.

                Who is more advanced? I'd put my money on the Amish anyday for a political opinion or any question about history or world knowledge.
              • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @11:42AM (#10069511) Homepage
                Just wanted to echo what others are saying... the Amish aren't primitive. I don't want to get too far into something off-topic, but the Amish have chosen a way of life, and that's all. It's not like they aren't capable of figuring out electricity, they just don't think it will improve their quality of life to do so. Would it be 'primitive' to decide to stop watching television because it didn't fit into your idea of "the good life"?

                And you know what? It isn't at all clear that they're wrong. The Amish seem to do alright for themselves, have very low crime, and (though I don't have any studies handy) are generally more happy with their lives than the rest of us.

                But maybe you were just trolling?

                • by overunderunderdone (521462) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @01:29PM (#10070866)
                  Wired had a story about their approach to technology a few years ago that was very interesting. They are NOT all-around luddites. They evaluate any technology against it's likely impact on society and reject those they believe to be negative. Phones for instance are not allowed INDOORS because they believe phones disrupt the relationships in the home by allowing anyone to interrupt at any time - phones obligate you to be rude to the people you are actually with. But phones are allowed OUTSIDE the home and are used in conjunction with voice mail and/or fax machines to facilitate communication without being ruled by it.

                  Also their prohibitions are not iron-clad. If they have good reasons to do so they will override their day-to-day prohibitions.
              • Imagine that huh? The most primitive people around actually give their kids choice of their beliefs.

                Or alternately, they keep thier perfect society by dumping their malcontents and mentally ill on us.
            • by Talinom (243100) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @12:02PM (#10069763) Homepage Journal
              And that was a fly-ass buggy! Lowered for better cargo stability, two horse power, aftermarket methane overpressure release valves, dope teak spinners on the wheels, and Recaro seats.

              Sh!t, they R teh r0xX0r!
        • by UnixRevolution (597440) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @10:36AM (#10068642) Homepage Journal
          Actually, Al asked, coolio apparently said yes, then denied saying yes later. Al still feels terrible about it. Check the whole story at www.weirdal.com.

        • by stefanlasiewski (63134) * <.slashdot. .at. .stefanco.com.> on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @10:49AM (#10068794) Homepage Journal
          There's at least one instance, "Amish Paradise", where the original artist (Coolio) denied permission and Weird Al went ahead with it anyway.

          As it turns out, several Amish communities were also horribly offended by the song, but it's against their beliefs to sue him, so they haven't done anything about it.

          The Amish didn't write the song, so on what grounds would they sue? Being offended by a song has nothing to do with copyright law.

        • and had been told as much by his record label. He did not receive a denial and go "ahead with it anyway". Read this [weirdal.com] and get your facts straight before sounding off.

          In fact, I'll make it easy for you; here is the relevant excerpt from the FAQ:

          What about Coolio? I heard that he was upset with Al about "Amish Paradise."

          That was a very unfortunate case of misunderstanding between Al's people and Coolio's people. Short version of the story: Al recorded "Amish Paradise" after being told by his record l
      • Weird Al asks permission out of courtesy, not because the law makes him. I remember watching an interview with him about it.
      • by Vann_v2 (213760) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @11:20AM (#10069226) Homepage
        Parody is protected. However, this is the same thing that happened with Penny Arcade and American Greetings, Inc. (or whoever) a while ago. Penny Arcade parodied the likeness of some character to satirize Todd McFarlane (I think). So it wasn't a parody of said character, but a satire of Todd McFarlane.

        Likewise, JibJab used "This Land is Our Land" to satirize President Bush and Senator Kerry. If they had wrote a song that was merely a parody of "This Land is Our Land" then they would have been fine and it would have been protected. However, they used the song for other purposes, not covered under the provisions that protect parody.

        Fortunately, the song was in the public domain and hence the restrictions didn't apply.
    • Weird Al always asks for permission from the original artists before doing a parody of their hit. It's not required, but it's the way he operates.

      One thing that's being overlooked is the right to perform/record/re-record a song out of a song book it a very cheap thing to aquire. The copyright owner on the song can't say "no", and the price is spelled out in law. That's what "mechanical royalties" are all about.
      • by ManxStef (469602) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @11:34AM (#10069416) Homepage
        CD Baby has a guide on how to do a cover song in the US:
        http://www.cdbaby.net/dd?f=8

        It's slightly different here in the UK (and slightly easier as it's a single "clearing-house"), you'll need to get in touch with the Mechanical Copyright Protection Society (MCPS) and probably the Performing Rights Society:
        http://www.prs.co.uk/soundadvice/
        http: //www.mcps.co.uk/

        For specific advice on doing a cover, see the FAQ (question 9) here:
        http://www.mcps.co.uk/productlicensing/

        Note that when you publicly perform a cover you'll need a Public Entertainment Licence (PEL) and a PRS licence.

        If you're an artist/band then I'ld recommend joining/registering with both the MCPS & PRS, it doesn't cost much (if anything) and means that you're work is protected and you'll get paid for things like radio play, so it's well worth it. They also give you a load of advice and are really helpful in general.
    • by ubera (107426) <oconnoat@tAUDENcd.ie minus poet> on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @10:21AM (#10068459) Homepage
      According to his site [weirdal.com], Weird Al always gets permission first, though it's characterised as a notification:

      "Q. Does Al get permission to do his parodies?

      A. Al does get permission from the original writers of the songs that he parodies. While the law supports his ability to parody without permission, he feels it's important to maintain the relationships that he's built with artists and writers over the years. Plus, Al wants to make sure that he gets his songwriter credit (as writer of new lyrics) as well as his rightful share of the royalties."
    • Parodies make fun of the song, satire uses the song to make fun of something else.

      Parodies are protected speech, satire is not, that's why there was a lawsuit.
      • Parodies are protected speech, satire is not, that's why there was a lawsuit.

        Looks like they were making fun of both (using the original lyrics of the song to make a point).
      • WRONG! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by kajoob (62237) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @10:58AM (#10068873)
        Parodies are protected speech, satire is not, that's why there was a lawsuit.

        I don't know where on God's green earth you got that from, but you couldn't be more wrong. Both parody and satire are protected forms of speech. I don't have the cases in front of me, but the New York Times v. Sullivan case, the Hustler v. Fallwell case, et al, bare this out. In fact, when the satire is aimed at a public official, there is a much higher standard that is used in finding whether or not the work was defamatory in nature ("actual malice").

        On a side note, there is a unique case coming up through the Texas courts involving something called "Libel by fiction" (ie - "If what i said is fiction, it's can't be a truth I'm asserted, therefore 'wrong'").

        For the non-legal types, here [cnn.com] is a good CNN article that pretty much somes it up in plain english. Note that the finding of the lower courts in Texas is not the law is the vast majority of jurisdictions, so let's hope that Texas gets this one right at their Supreme Court level.
        • by hacksoncode (239847) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @11:48AM (#10069587)
          Actually, the point here isn't about the protectedness of the speech per-se. Both parodies and satire are as protected as any other kind of speech.

          The point is about fair use. It is considered fair use (no permission needed, though mechanical royalties may have to be paid) to parody the original song. It is not considered fair use to use the original song to satirize something *other* than the original song, and therefore permission can legally be denied by the author of the song (or assignees).

    • I thought that no matter what parody was protected regardless of copyright?

      No, parody of copyrighted material is protected, and parody of politicians is protected. Inappropriate use of copyrighted material to parody politicians is not necessarily protected.

    • While I agree with your argument, I should point out that the Jib Jab piece isn't necessarily parody - it's satire. Satire does not enjoy the same degree of protection as parody.

      I think it wasn't parodying the "This Land" song, it was satirizing the political campaign. One could probably make a case for the reverse - but what do you think is more likely?

      "I think I'll make fun of Dubya and Kerry. This old song could be useful."

      -or-

      "I think I'll make fun of this old song. Dubya and Kerry could be usef
    • by PsiPsiStar (95676) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @10:47AM (#10068765)
      The candidates made asses out of themselves. Jib Jab just set it to music. ;)
  • so they didnt win (Score:5, Insightful)

    by digitalsushi (137809) * <slashdot@digitalsushi.com> on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @10:17AM (#10068395) Journal
    They got lucky.
    • by bay43270 (267213)
      Yeah, this is frustrating. I don't give money to the EFF to get individuals off the hook on technicalities. I give it to them to fight for cases that will influence the way our laws work. But in order to make these changes, they need to take on cases. And in order to fairly represent clients in cases like this, they can't just pass up the gimmie to go for a verdict that would help others in the future. Maybe next time.
      • by mingot (665080) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @11:23AM (#10069257)
        That the original work was not even copyrighted is hardly a "technicality".

        Also, if this is really frustrating to you then I suggest you consider curtailing your donations and instead contributing to a lobbyest or PAC that has the same goals as you. Sure, the ultimate goal of the EEF might be to change law, but at the core they are protecting PEOPLE who are getting steamrolled. Lobbyests and PACs cut out the middleman (the poor shmuck who is about to lose everything he has because *insert conglomerate here* has an army of lawyers on his ass) and go straight to the lawmakers.
    • Re:so they didnt win (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Qzukk (229616)
      So, now that its established that these people don't have the copyright to the song after all, will anyone take them to court for their lies in an attempt to obtain money from these JibJab people? Around these parts, we call lying for money "fraud".
  • by jameskojiro (705701) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @10:19AM (#10068417) Journal
    Is Howard Dean's Scream public domain?

  • How many others.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by valisk (622262) * on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @10:19AM (#10068418) Homepage Journal
    Copyrighted works are out there just waiting to be discovered as public domain, but still being used by the unscrupulous to chill the creativity of others?

    Lets hope this case serves as inspiration to others to dig up other gems for the public domain.

  • by Theovon (109752) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @10:19AM (#10068420)
    With all this crap going on about companies, like SCO and others, claiming rights to something that they don't have rights to, it should be a criminal offense to threaten someone over violation of or otherwise claiming to have a copyright or patent that you don't actually have rights to.
    • by Omega1045 (584264) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @10:25AM (#10068502)
      I don't think so. This would limit the rights of those who truly are wronged. Imagine you are a "little guy" who creates some cool new invention. Now GlobalMegaCorpX copies it and starts selling it like crazy even thought you have a patent. GlobalMegaCorpX has hundreds of lawyers, you only have you and the lawyer that you can afford with which to battle them (to sue them). Do you also want the fact that it might be a criminal offense if you loose your suit (this is what I assume you mean)? Or even to threaten them, hoping they will stop rather than you having to spend your kid's college fund suing them?
    • by abulafia (7826) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @10:36AM (#10068649)
      Pushing for such a change in law would make other changes the IP cartels want much easier... like turning copyright infringement into a criminal matter as well. Or do you _want_ your tax money to be used to hunt down file swappers?

      All of these things should stay civil law.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @10:20AM (#10068426) Homepage
    ...someone who doesn't have legal rights to do so has threatened legal action as a form of intimidation? Where? [SCO] have I heard [RIAA/MPAA] of this happening before?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @10:20AM (#10068437)
    Rather than take up the fight and demand a proper day in court, the only manner in which a precedent can be set and thusly followed hereafter, the EFF decides to take the low road and simply settle out of court thus making the whole case moot and completely lacking in historic substance.

    Yes, it's a runon sentence, but this kind of pussyfooting around actually challenging usurpations of our freedoms by the EFF has become their calling card. Hop aboard winning cases, make a lot of noise, settle out of court, then call it a victory. Well boys, it ain't a victory unless there is a ruling and so long as you want to keep the courts out of this type of thing these challenges to our rights will continue unabated.
    • by Scrameustache (459504) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @10:29AM (#10068555) Homepage Journal
      Well boys, it ain't a victory

      Are you kidding? Instead of getting a ruling on this one perticular incident, they prevented these assholes from suing anybody ever again for using that song.

      They not only sucessfully defended JibJab, they also liberated a song!
    • by Skater (41976)
      You have to choose your battles.

      This might not have proven anything and damages awarded might have been less than the amount spent on the case, making it not worth pursuing more vigorously.

      --RJ
    • by BarryNorton (778694) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @10:33AM (#10068604)
      Except that if the case was really, as suggested, won on copyright having lapsed then there's no useful precedent to be gained...
    • by jcochran (309950) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @10:34AM (#10068618)
      Excuse me?
      Once it was discovered that "This Land Is Your Land" was already in the public domain, there no longer was a case capable of being fought. I can just imagine what would have happened if EFF did bring it before the court:

      EFF: Your honor, during discovery, we found out that "This Land Is Your Land" is actually in the public domain.
      JUDGE: That's good to know. Now after finding that little piece of information, why are you wasting the time of this court? Case dismissed!
    • by NaugaHunter (639364) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @10:35AM (#10068635)
      JibJab dismissed its suit against Ludlow today. As part of the settlement of the case, JibJab will remain free to continue distributing the "This Land" animation without further interference from Ludlow.

      Slow down, Beavis. JibJab asked EFF to step in on their behalf, and would have been financially committed to the fight if they turned down the settlement, which would have been a battle of words and old records:

      According to EFF, the initial copyright term was triggered when Guthrie sold his first versions of the song as sheet music in 1945. The copyright on the song then ran out when Ludlow failed to renew its registration in 1973. Ludlow believes its copyright -- initially filed in 1956 and renewed in 1984 -- remains valid and disputes EFF's claims.

      It is correct to say this hasn't settled anything outside of JibJab's case itself. In the case of 'This Land', what this actually accomplishes is now a large company could use it and be prepared to attack with EFF's finding's. It is a victory in the sense that the EFF helped accomplish what they were engaged for - JibJab can use the song without getting sued. Just because that falls short of what some would like to see doesn't nullify it.
    • 1) It's the client (in this case JibJab) that calls the shots, and it is the attorney's duty to apprise the client of settlement offers. If the client wants to settle, there is nothing EFF can do about it. So if you're going to whine and complain, go to Jibjab, not the EFF.

      2) There was no precedent to be set in this case. JibJab and the EFF were relying on well established principles of Fair Use, before they discovered that the property in question was in the Public Domain. If the courts had ruled against
    • Rather than take up the fight and demand a proper day in court, the only manner in which a precedent can be set and thusly followed hereafter, the EFF decides to take the low road and simply settle out of court thus making the whole case moot and completely lacking in historic substance.

      Once the song was discovered to be in the public domain, any copyright dispute brought before the court would have been "frivolous." I, for one, do not want the EFF to tarnish its image by bringing frivolous cases before

  • by Col. Klink (retired) (11632) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @10:21AM (#10068454)
    What happens to people who paid royalties since then. Can they sue to get their fees back, or are they SOL?
    • by atheos (192468) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @10:32AM (#10068599) Homepage

      Ludlow believes its copyright -- initially filed in 1956 and renewed in 1984 -- remains valid and disputes EFF's claims.

      This never made it to court, so it's likely that a Judge would have to make that kind of determination. Ludlow may have backed down for just this very concern for all we know.
    • by XaProf (553425) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @10:56AM (#10068863)

      What happens to people who paid royalties since then. Can they sue to get their fees back, or are they SOL?

      Just offhand, as a random law student (I know, I know, IANAL...yet...), they might be able to get some money back through something like unjust enrichment -- on the grounds that they didn't actually get anything when they paid their money. Who knows, maybe a claim of fraud might work too. The problem with that is that unjust enrichment is usually considered an equitable principle, and that means that whoever they paid their money to could argue laches, which is basically the equitable version of a statute of limitations; people who paid money back in the 80's might still be screwed.

      But good luck to whoever sues, since that way we'll finally get a court decision. Litigation's way too expensive these days, and that's impairing the development of the law as a whole.

  • So... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by shadowcabbit (466253) <cx&thefurryone,net> on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @10:22AM (#10068468) Journal
    So when JibJab copyrights the new lyrics, does that mean "This Land" will become Their Song?

    (only half-joking)
    • I believe that the answer is that they will own the rights to their new lyrics, but not the original words and music. Unless they decide to put the new lyrics into the public domain, which would be a cool thing to do, considering.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @10:23AM (#10068475)
    This song is my song, This song is your song, It belongs to me, As much as Guthrie...
  • At least... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by drakyri (727902) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @10:26AM (#10068519)
    "This song is Copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright # 154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we don't give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that's all we wanted to do." -Woody Guthrie
  • by Ziak (807893) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @10:28AM (#10068540)
    might be a little off topic but the famous "I have a Dream" speach is copywrited and when ever someones plays the whole message (or if I recall coretcally more then 3 lines) the family demands money for use of it.... not to over critize but don't you think Dr. King would overturn in his grave if he knew this was happening... I just don't see how something as imporant as that can be considred a quick way to earn some $$$, which is why I also don't think anything patrioic should be abled to be copywrited
    • by gstoddart (321705) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @10:51AM (#10068818) Homepage
      not to over critize but don't you think Dr. King would overturn in his grave if he knew this was happening... I


      If it was purely for financial gain, I suspect he would have issues with it.

      I suspect to a larger degree, not hijacking the message of the good Reverend is far more important to them. At some point, I should think the integrity of its use far outweighs the simple financial values.

      Cheers

      PS - Copywrite describes file-system perms. CopyOnWrite describes a memory policy for shared memory. Copyright describes the Right To Copy. Your friendly neighborhood grammar monkey. =)

  • two points (Score:5, Funny)

    by emtboy9 (99534) <jeff@jefflan e . o rg> on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @10:31AM (#10068583) Homepage
    First, congrats to JibJab and the EFF for winning... however, is this really that big a victory? I mean, while it is great that they weren't steamrollered into giving this up or paying money for something that wasnt even copyrighted in the first place, the fact is, it was already in the public domain.

    I think this would be far more telling if they were victorious over the grounds that it is a political parody using a well known tune and lyrics to make a political satire or point, which is 1st ammendment protected as free speech... however, this was simply someone suing because they thought they owned rights to something that they didnt...

    Kind of like land owners squabbling about 5 feet of land that each things he/she owns, before they check teh actual surveys to see who really owns that 5 feet of land...

    Second point...

    wonder how long it will be before Mr. T. sues them for using the words JibJab? Wasn't it Mr. T who was well known for the phrase "I dont wanna hear no jibbajabba!"

    Heh... the first time I heard of this site, the very first thing that popped into my mind was Mr. T saying (wait for it... ... wait for it...

    Here it comes...

    yes, its obligatory...)

    This land is your land fool!
    this land is my land fool!
    dont gimme no jibbajabba!
    or i'l breaka your face

    I pity the fool who gives me tha jive talk, sucker!
  • by Royster (16042) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @10:35AM (#10068629) Homepage
    I quote from the press release (emphasis added):
    EFF's investigation revealed that "This Land is Your Land" appears to have been in the public domain since the early 1970s. Woody Guthrie wrote his classic American song in 1940, when the copyright laws granted a copyright term of 28 years, renewable once for an additional 28. According to EFF, the initial copyright term was triggered when Guthrie sold his first versions of the song as sheet music in 1945. The copyright on the song then ran out when Ludlow failed to renew its registration in 1973.
    Ludlow believes its copyright -- initially filed in 1956 and renewed in 1984 -- remains valid and disputes EFF's claims. [...] JibJab dismissed its suit against Ludlow today. As part of the settlement of the case, JibJab will remain free to continue distributing the "This Land" animation without further interference from Ludlow.
    So, apparently, Ludow is free to go on pretending that This Land Is Your Land is their copyright. How does this help anyone?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @10:40AM (#10068690)
    ...who thinks the cartoon really isn't that funny, and what's more, really isn't that balanced/unbiased? The *only* jab on Bush is that he's "dumb", which he effectively defuses with his "and yes I do kick ass" - meanwhile, his character gets to deliver negative and generally fallacious talking point after talking about about John Kerry.

    Perpetuating the myth that Kerry is a sophisticated northener whereas Bush is an average joe southerner, for example (they're *both* filthy rich northerners, George W. is the only one of his family to somehow pick up that Texan accent).

    Delivering the "flip flops" talking point is also pretty damn ludicrous, as Bush is guilty of at least as bad, if not worse. The majority of the accused "flip flops" are minor changes over the course of a 20 year political career - I don't call that a flip flop, I call that legitimately maturing and changing your mind.

    Anyway, yeah. I don't think it's that funny, and I don't think it's that balanced. I don't think the lawsuit against it was legitimate, either, but that's neither here nor there at this point I suppose.
  • by kfg (145172) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @10:40AM (#10068691)
    This is not only great news for This Land is Your Land lovers, but for lovers of all of Woody's music, because the same case will apply to any other of Woody's songs that Ludlow failed to renew.

    Time to do some research people.

    I hate to place a fly in the ointment though, especially in public where Ludlow's lawyers might see it, but the Sonny Bono Copyright Act extended copyright retroactively, including onto those titles that had already fallen into the public domain. This has been a real pain to online publishers of public domain works, many of whom have withdrawn certain titles that were clearly in the public domain when they first posted them.

    To my knowledge this portion of the act has never actually been tested in court though, and still hasn't since this issue was resolved by the withdrawl of the complaint. They are free to remake it for some decades.

    In this case though we still have Woody's own grant of public rights on first publication. I wonder if that didn't influence Ludlow's action, since going to court over the issue would inevitably bring that up. They may wish to avoid a judicial ruling on that score.

    KFG
  • by The Wicked Priest (632846) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @10:43AM (#10068719)
    This song was made for you and me!
  • by H0ek (86256) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @10:56AM (#10068854) Homepage Journal
    THE MONOPOLY ON MUSIC pays a few po? writers to go screwy trying to write and rewrite the same old notes under the same old formulas and the same old patterns. The songs have no guts. They sound sissified, timid, the spinning dreams of a bunch of neurotic screwballs. How can they be otherwise when they have no connection with the work and the fight of the whole human race? They are bad. They are hurtful, poisonous, complascent, distracting, full of jerky headaches and jangled nerves. I have seen soldiers and sailors on ships sail these insane records over into the water by the dozens. I have heard fighting men in war zones scream and demand that the gibbery radio be shut off or it would be smashed.
    Why did I think of Brittney Spears the entire time I read that paragraph?
  • by Irvu (248207) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @11:09AM (#10069051)
    Of all the songs in the world to have a sick copyright fight of this type over "This Land is Your Land" (or indeed anything by Guthrie) should be exempt. Guthrie was a lifelong advocate for the rights of the poor, a labor agitator.

    The song itself is all about the value of the country and how it should be shared by all of us.

    The version that I (and most of the people that I know) learned in school goes:


    This land is your land, this land is my land
    From the redwood forest to the New York island.
    From the snow-capped mountains to the Gulf Stream waters
    This land is made for you and me.

    As I go walkin' my ribbon of highway
    I see all around me my blue blue skyway
    Everywhere around me the wind keeps a-whistlin'
    This land is made for you and me.

    I'm a-chasin' my shadow out across this roadmap
    To my wheat fields waving, to my cornfield dancing
    As I go walkin' this wind keeps talkin'
    This land is made for you and me.

    I can see your mailbox, I can see your doorstep
    I can feel my wind rock your tip-top treetop
    All around your house there my sunbeam whispers
    This land is made for you and me.


    That is the version as it was first recorded at guthrie's last commercial session. Interestingly enough there is a missing verse that shows up in a few rare recordings that appear in the Library of Congress. It states:


    "Was a big high wall there that tried to stop me
    A sign was painted, said 'Private property.'
    But on the other side it didn't say nothing.
    This land was made for you and me."

    This shows up in a recording that Woodie made that is now part of the Smithsonian Folkways recordings (see here [si.edu] and Here [magnetbox.com]).

    I can't think of a more appropriate response to this than that.

    You can see more info:
    • At an NPR story: here [npr.org] and here [npr.org]
    • Here [edu-cyberpg.com] for more info.
    • Here [woodyguthrie.org] for info from the Woodiy Guthrie foundation.
    • Here [arlo.net] for the Lyrics from Arlo Guthrie, Woody's Son.


    • IMHO whoever claims to "own" this is as sick as the people who claim to "own" the image of Martin Luther King as property. See the commentrary at the internet archive: here. [archive.org]
    • Ebert text. (Score:5, Informative)

      by Irvu (248207) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @11:12AM (#10069102)
      So the wayback machine won't get /dotted.

      The promised land goes condo

      March 30, 2001

      BY ROGER EBERT

      The voice from the television set was measured and familiar, the cadence one that has been engraved on my memory.

      "I have a dream ... " the voice said. I glanced up, and saw Martin Luther King Jr. delivering his most famous speech, given at the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington.

      It was a camera angle I hadn't seen before. And, oddly, he wasn't flanked by other civil rights leaders, but was standing all by himself. As his words continued, the camera's point of view circled to look out over his head and down the Mall, which was completely empty.

      CGI, I thought. Computer-generated imagery. Then the tag line came on. It was a commercial for Alcatel, a company involved in communications networks and cell phones. An Alcatel newspaper ad with the same image spells out the message: "Before you can inspire ... you must first connect."

      Via Alcatel, of course.

      I was filled with anger and sadness.

      Not this speech, I thought. Not this moment in American history.

      Ads have exploited almost every image worth quoting in our society. United Airlines has made it impossible for anyone to ever again hear Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" without thinking about airplanes. Fred Astaire, the most graceful dancer in movie history, was seen dancing with a Dust-Buster. Such ads are pathetic, yes, but I suppose the copyright owners have a legal right to license them, and if their estates have no regard for the reputation of Gershwin or Astaire, well, that's greed for you.

      But surely there are a few moments too sacred, too special, to be bought and sold. I would have thought Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech was one of them.

      It shines like a beacon in our history. It belongs to all of us. It does not belong to Alcatel, which should not have the temerity and insensitivity to use it in an ad. And in a way, it doesn't belong to the King estate, either. The estate should consider itself the protector of this speech, not its retailer.

      Perhaps, I thought, the speech was somehow in the public domain, and Alcatel had ripped it off to sell its networks and cell phones. I called the Martin Luther King Center in Atlanta and spoke with Robert Vickers, its public relations spokesman.

      "I am afraid you will have to fax me your questions in writing," he said.

      "I have only one question," I said. "Did the King Center license the Alcatel TV commercial?"

      "Yes," he said. "It was licensed by the King estate's Intellectual Properties Management."

      "Have you had a lot of calls about the ad?" I asked.

      "Yes," he said, "comments both ways."

      I started to ask how much the speech sold for, but he told me about the fax again. I didn't much feel like sending the fax. I knew the price.

      Thirty pieces of silver.

      Copyright © Chicago Sun-Times Inc.
  • by PontifexPrimus (576159) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @11:10AM (#10069056)
    I'm waiting to see if this comment gets modded "Insightful" or "Funny"...
  • The BPI (British Phonographic Industry) are currently lobying to increase [rtfm.com] the length of music copyright in europe from 50 years to 75 years.

    According to the BBC..... [bbc.co.uk]

    "A campaign is under way to protect music copyrights due to expire on 50-year-old records by Elvis Presley and other rock legends.

    The UK music industry has begun the fight over a legal loophole on royalty payments.

    Starting on 1 January 2005, copies of songs can be issued in Europe 50 years after their release without the need for payments to copyright owners.

    It could affect records by Chuck Berry, James Brown - and by 2013, The Beatles.

    The British Phonographic Industry (BPI) is spearheading the campaign.

    Landmark rock 'n' roll recordings such as Presley's That's All Right and Shake, Rattle and Roll by Bill Haley and his Comets come out of copyright in Europe in January.

    Prized catalogue

    Over the next few years major hits by acts such as Little Richard, Johnny Cash, Bo Diddley and Fats Domino will also come into the public domain.

    The Beatles' catalogue would begin to become freely available from 1 January 2013, with their first single Love Me Do. The band's entire repertoire - the most prized catalogue in rock music - would follow over the next eight years.

    Recordings by other key British acts such as Cliff Richard, The Shadows, Tommy Steele and Lonnie Donegan are also at the centre of the campaign.

    The Beatles
    The Beatles' first single comes into the public domain in 2013
    Once out of copyright, the BPI fears such potentially lucrative recordings could be exploited without recompense to the performers or the copyright holders.

    Unlike Europe, copyright protection exists in the US for 95 years after the recording was made. Australia and Brazil have 70-year terms, and India 60 years. Composers and writers also enjoy 70 years' protection.

    Peter Jamieson, the BPI's executive chairman, said less favourable copyright terms could put the UK's record industry at a commercial disadvantage to the US.

    He said it was unfair to performers and investors to fail to get a return for a "free-for-all" in Europe - often within the artist's lifetime.

    Record labels argue that their ability to invest in new talent often depends on money generated by their back catalogue.

    The BPI is leading about 20 recording bodies including the Association of Independent Music (Aim) in lobbying the government over its concerns."

    According to me....

    Love, Love me do, there's a hole in me shoe, and you ain't nothing but a hound dog, just a crying all the time.

    A large number of musical recordings from such people as The Beatles and Elvis Presley have become part of the National, European and World Wide culture. Most everybody in the west knows the songs, young musicians practice them with desires of making it great, and you can hear people singing the songs in pubs, bars, restaurants and homes on any night, up and down the country.

    Despite all this I could still be breaking copyright if I had extended my opening sentence. It has come to something when a piece of material more than 50 years old, that everyone can knows and can probably do a simple reproduction of, either by whistling, humming, strumming or singing, can be owned, not by the original artist, but by the music distribution companies.

    Don't act like a small child in the playground. Let the music go, let it be free, give it to the people, let them feel the music.

  • by multimed (189254) <mrmultimedia@nOsPaM.yahoo.com> on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @11:15AM (#10069145)
    "The idea of copyright law is that, after a time, every work comes back into the hands of the public, where it can be reused, recycled, made part of new creativity without having to pay a fee or call in the lawyers. That's a great thing, the real genius of copyright."
    Of course this was the intent, and most certainly the theory of copyright is ingenius. However, the current implementation is awful and does nothing of the sort. The length of copyrights is no longer a "limited-term" by any real definition. I finally remember what it's like--it's like an asymptote in math. The term keeps getting closer and closer to forever, but it will never literally be forever so people claim it is "limited." As a result, any semblance of balance has vanished. Copyright owners now get all the benefits of the monopoly on copying a work and society gets none of benefits of it entering the public domain.
  • Learn from this (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Henry V .009 (518000) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @11:19AM (#10069206) Journal
    I hope that this is a lesson to companies who let themselves be run by their legal departments. Just like you don't let your engineers run your company, it doesn't make sense to let your lawyers run your company. Sadly, while many companies have learned the first lesson, too few have learned the second.

    Here is what they can learn from this case: Go to court for a tiny piece and you can wind up losing the whole enchilada.
  • Heh.. (Score:3, Funny)

    by pclminion (145572) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @11:41AM (#10069498)
    Apparently they thought the lyrics should go...

    This song is my song, it is not your song...

  • by Robotech_Master (14247) * on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @11:58AM (#10069699) Homepage Journal
    ...I've just written a really lengthy entry in my essay journal [terrania.us] going into the whole matter at great length, pulling in quotes and article citations from here and there and discussing the implications.

    Okay, so I'm a self-promoter. But hey, I put some good time and effort into writing it, and I'm proud of my work.
  • by renderhead (206057) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @12:35PM (#10070174)
    This should come as good news to the Girl Scouts of America, who in 1996 stopped singing "This Land is Your Land" at campfire events [sfgate.com] along with all other copyrighted music, at least officially.
  • by kramer (19951) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @06:11PM (#10073459) Homepage
    What about the various people who have previously purchased rights to use the song? If the song's been in the public domain for some 40 years, don't they deserve a refund?

God may be subtle, but he isn't plain mean. -- Albert Einstein

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