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JibJab Wins - 'This Land' is Public Domain

CmdrTaco posted more than 9 years ago | from the well-that-was-easy dept.

The Courts 628

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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Protected speech already? Oh wait... (5, Insightful)

garcia (6573) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068391)

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.

Re:Protected speech already? Oh wait... (4, Informative)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068435)

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.

Re:Protected speech already? Oh wait... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10068481)

Nope, Al's lawyer ask for permission first.

Coolio denied his request to parody the song and Al did it anyway.

Re:Protected speech already? Oh wait... (4, Informative)

UserGoogol (623581) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068504)

Weird Al claimed that there was a miscommunication and that he thought he got permission.

Re:Protected speech already? Oh wait... (2, Funny)

Slider451 (514881) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068644)

I thought I was the only one who saw his VH-1 shows.

Only out of politeness... (3, Informative)

Millennium (2451) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068522)

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.

Re:Only out of politeness... (1)

chrismcdirty (677039) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068598)

Eminem also asked him not to do a video of his parody of "Lose Yourself" because he felt that it was an emotional song for himself and it would be cheapened if they played a video parodying it constantly on MTV. But he did allow him to do the song. Just not the video.

Re:Only out of politeness... (4, Funny)

Jaysyn (203771) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068609)

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

Re:Only out of politeness... (4, Informative)

UnixRevolution (597440) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068642)

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.

Re:Protected speech already? Oh wait... (2, Informative)

}InFuZeD{ (52430) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068532)

Weird Al asks permission out of courtesy, not because the law makes him. I remember watching an interview with him about it.

Re:Protected speech already? Oh wait... (1)

alman (86957) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068544)

AFAIK Al doesn't need permission but would like it.

Re:Protected speech already? Oh wait... (1)

HeghmoH (13204) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068549)

But he doesn't have to. Al asks first because he doesn't want to piss everybody off, not because he doesn't want to get sued.

Re:Protected speech already? Oh wait... (2, Informative)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068446)

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.

Re:Protected speech already? Oh wait... (5, Informative)

ubera (107426) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068459)

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."

Re:Protected speech already? Oh wait... (3, Informative)

}InFuZeD{ (52430) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068494)

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.

Re:Protected speech already? Oh wait... (2, Informative)

garcia (6573) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068581)

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).

Re:Protected speech already? Oh wait... (2, Informative)

Otter (3800) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068545)

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.

Re:Protected speech already? Oh wait... (1)

adavies42 (746183) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068550)

Very little of Weird Al's stuff is parody in the legal sense. To be a protected parody, you must "comment on" the original material, not just use it to comment on something else. The only Weird Al songs I'm aware of that would qualify would be "Still Billy Joel To Me", "Smells Like Nirvana", and "Achy-Breaky Song".

Re:Protected speech already? Oh wait... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10068723)

"This Song is Just Six Words Long"

Re:Protected speech already? Oh wait... (3, Interesting)

LordGibson (104709) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068589)

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 useful."

Re:Protected speech already? Oh wait... (1)

Planesdragon (210349) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068594)

Isn't that how Weird Al operates?

No. Parody and wholesale reproduction are different things.

The lyrics and music of a song are, for some odd reason, considered different works (or seperable parts of the same work...). Weird Al doesn't have clear fair-use right to use someone's unaltered music or lyrics, so he always asks permission.

Re:Protected speech already? Oh wait... (1)

bokmann (323771) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068643)

That was defined in part of the lawsuit...

If JibJab was a parody poking fun AT THE SONG ITSELF, it would be protected. If it is just USING the song to poke fun at the presidential candidates, then it is not. It is a fine line, but the original lawsuit was based on the idea that they were just using the song.

I would have liked to see this go to court, because I think this is a fine line worth defining... As long as it came down under 'fair use for parody'... And I think it would have, because this WAS a parody of the song, as well as the candidates.

Since it turned out it is in the public domain, the decision isn't necessary.

so they didnt win (4, Insightful)

digitalsushi (137809) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068395)

They got lucky.

Re:so they didnt win (2, Insightful)

bay43270 (267213) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068607)

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.

Re:so they didnt win (2, Interesting)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068616)

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".

Re:so they didnt win (2, Funny)

gowen (141411) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068633)

Oh no, they won alright. It's just that they didn't win in a way that would have any precedent for further cases (e.g. if I used a version of "I'd Like To Buy The World A Coke" to parody -- oooh, President Bush's youthful indiscretions with recreational pharmaceuticals)

Freedom! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10068397)

You can all stop biting my cock now.

Patriotic songs (0)

aklix (801048) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068399)

Patriotic songs shouldn't be copyrighten, thats all there is to it.

Or even (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10068480)

Copywrited...is that write? I can't right for shit.

Re:Patriotic songs (2, Insightful)

Jim_Maryland (718224) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068487)

Patriotic songs shouldn't be copyrighten, thats all there is to it.

While some songs may seem more obvious than others, who gets to determine if a song is patriotic?

Re:Patriotic songs (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10068551)

George W. Bush chooses what is patriotic. It doesn't matter if it is a song, a person, or an idea. It is up to him, or else you are un-patriotic.

Re:Patriotic songs (0)

Hassman (320786) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068683)

I just threw-up all over my keyboard because of that comment. Thanks.

Re:Patriotic songs (4, Informative)

gosand (234100) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068505)

Patriotic songs shouldn't be copyrighten, thats all there is to it.


Patriotic huh?



Chorus

As I was walkin' - I saw a sign there
And that sign said - no tress passin'
But on the other side .... it didn't say nothin!
Now that side was made for you and me!

Chorus

In the squares of the city - In the shadow of the steeple
Near the relief office - I see my people
And some are grumblin' and some are wonderin'
If this land's still made for you and me.

Re:Patriotic songs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10068574)

sure it is patriotic.

nothing more American then apple pie, "football", pointless lawsuits and anti-establishment complaining

Re:Patriotic songs (4, Insightful)

pknoll (215959) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068630)

Patriotic huh?

Yes, patriotic. Patriotism is loving your country, not your government (per se), and being willing to defend your country from threat of harm. Even... no, especially, if that harm comes from it's government.

Yep (3, Insightful)

Azureflare (645778) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068673)

A patriotic song doesn't have to approve of the way a country is going.

You can still love your country and question it's direction.

Remember, patriotism [m-w.com] does not mean you have to wave a flag.

Re:Patriotic songs (1)

zymurgyboy (532799) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068680)

Nothing is copyrighten. A lot of stuff is copyrighted.

Most of the songs people think of as "patriotic" have long since passed into the Public Domain anyway. Now that copyrights have been extended to their current length, "patriotic" songs written and composed in this century probably won't pass into the Public Domain in any of our lifetimes ,if ever.

Anyway, why not?

May I be the first to say... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10068400)

...uh?!

A must see... (2, Informative)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068410)

If you don't know what we're talking about here, it's definitely worth going to JibJab.com [jibjab.com] and clicking on the big link to the flash animation on the home page. It's well worth the long download time. It's very funny and equally attacks both candidates.

This got modded informative... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10068496)

for providing the same link as in the article summary?

Re:A must see... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10068546)

Thanks for reposting a link that was in the story blurb!

If you don't know what we're talking about here, then you've been trapped under a rock since spring! Sheesh!

The REAL Question is..... (5, Funny)

jameskojiro (705701) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068417)

Is Howard Dean's Scream public domain?

Re:The REAL Question is..... (1)

jeffs72 (711141) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068471)

I'm not sure if I want it to be public domain or not. Part of me wants it to die a nice quiet death, but it does make a great wav file for windows error dialog boxes.

Re:The REAL Question is..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10068472)

I hope so, because I don't want to be charged royalties for my nightmares.

Re:The REAL Question is..... (4, Funny)

hal2814 (725639) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068490)

That was Howard Dean? I though it was Ric Flair disguised as Howard Dean.

Re:The REAL Question is..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10068537)

How can you confuse the two?

Dean: Yeeaaarrgghh!
Flair: Wooooooooo!

Re:The REAL Question is..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10068495)

>i> Is Howard Dean's Scream public domain?

YEEEEAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!

Re:The REAL Question is..... (1)

JoshMooney (668142) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068610)

People on radio play it like it is.

How many others.... (4, Interesting)

valisk (622262) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068418)

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.

Re:How many others.... (4, Interesting)

unformed (225214) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068533)

One that I was surprised is that Night of the Living Dead is in the public domain (as of a few months ago.) Check out archive.org for other ones.

Re:How many others.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10068737)

It's been in the public domain since it was released.

Why?

Because they forgot to put a copyright date on it. That's why you'll see so many different crappy dvd releases of it.

False claims of copyright should be criminal! (4, Insightful)

Theovon (109752) | more than 9 years ago | (#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.

Re:False claims of copyright should be criminal! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10068445)

it's called a threat. It is illegal. You are only prosecuted when you don't have enough money to get out on a technicality.

Re:False claims of copyright should be criminal! (2)

ubera (107426) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068501)

Should all false accusations then be made illegal?

There is already protection from 'frivolous' threat, but your implication is that there is no belief by the accusers that they are in the right. It's possible that they do indeed believe it, and *shock* it may even be true in some cases.

Re:False claims of copyright should be criminal! (4, Insightful)

Omega1045 (584264) | more than 9 years ago | (#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?

Re:False claims of copyright should be criminal! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10068601)

And whats stoping GlobalMegaCorpX from dragging you through the courts for years eventually forcing you to give up because you'd like to eat.

Re:False claims of copyright should be criminal! (1)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068743)

It's one thing to say "I think you infringe against my patent" and another thing entirely to say "I think you infringe on this patent which belongs to someone else but you can pay me anyway."

Be careful what you ask for (4, Insightful)

abulafia (7826) | more than 9 years ago | (#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.

Re:False claims of copyright should be criminal! (1)

southpolesammy (150094) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068692)

You mean, like fraud? [wikipedia.org]

So wait a second... (5, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068426)

...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?

Re:So wait a second... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10068509)

My understanding of the DMCA is that if you file legal threats on behalf of someone or something you do not have legal ownership over, you can be prosecuted yourself.

Also - while I'm at it - the stupid JibJab flash thingy is hardly "hilarious". It's inane and dull and stupid.

Re:So wait a second... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10068626)

That is only because you have no personality.

EFF hurts us all again (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#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.

Re:EFF hurts us all again (5, Insightful)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068555)

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!

Re:EFF hurts us all again (2)

BarryNorton (778694) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068640)

they also liberated a song
This does seem to be the outcome - and one with which Woody Guthrie himself would be happy...

Re:EFF hurts us all again (2, Informative)

Skater (41976) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068559)

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

Re:EFF hurts us all again (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10068567)

Because they wouldn't have had a case, genius. The technicality was the only way to win it. Your popmpous indignation isn't admissible in court.

Re:EFF hurts us all again (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10068600)

Because they wouldn't have had a case, genius. The technicality was the only way to win it. Your popmpous indignation isn't admissible in court.

Yes they would have, you fuckwad. Parody is protected.

Re:EFF hurts us all again (1)

MrWarMage (787105) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068569)

This is very true, but a large part of what goes on in the outer fringes of the legal system - in the closed-door sessions between opposing litigators, the miles of paper and tape spent on depositions and affidavits, the settlements and counter-actions and injunctions - has been developed with a jaundiced eye on keeping things *outside* of case-law. This is indeed a double-edged sword. The courts may not necessarily *need* to weigh in on every piddling detail of legality, but the certainty is that when they do, it's often a circus. I definitely appreciate the problem, because precedence as established by rulings should, in theory, provide a smoother path to either aujudication or settlement. But hey, lawyers are lawyers - most tend not to give a flying assberry who is right or wrong so long as their billable hours are paid.

Re:EFF hurts us all again (4, Insightful)

BarryNorton (778694) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068604)

Except that if the case was really, as suggested, won on copyright having lapsed then there's no useful precedent to be gained...

Re:EFF hurts us all again (5, Insightful)

jcochran (309950) | more than 9 years ago | (#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!

Re:EFF hurts us all again (4, Insightful)

NaugaHunter (639364) | more than 9 years ago | (#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.

Simpsons (-1, Offtopic)

PetoskeyGuy (648788) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068447)

Ha Ha

Re:Simpsons (-1, Offtopic)

Conspiracy_Of_Doves (236787) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068486)

Damn, you beat me to it.

Hilarious? (0, Troll)

YourMissionForToday (556292) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068452)

Hilarious as Saturday Night Live. In other words, if you think it's funny, you probably prefer sucking your own cock to intercourse with other human beings.

If it's been PD since 1973... (5, Interesting)

Col. Klink (retired) (11632) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068454)

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

Re:If it's been PD since 1973... (4, Informative)

atheos (192468) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068599)


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.

So... (3, Insightful)

shadowcabbit (466253) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068468)

So when JibJab copyrights the new lyrics, does that mean "This Land" will become Their Song?

(only half-joking)

Re:So... (1)

adavies42 (746183) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068575)

IANAL, but AFAIK, they can copyright the new lyrics, but not the tune. I'm pretty sure derivative works of public domain material are copyrightable to the extent that they differ.

This song is owned by you and me (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10068475)

This song is my song, This song is your song, It belongs to me, As much as Guthrie...

This net is my net. (0, Redundant)

NoSuchGuy (308510) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068485)

This net is your net.
This net was made for you and me. ... ...

What puzzles me (1)

randall_burns (108052) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068512)

Why in the days of the internet haven't we seen any serious cultural icons emerge from non-commercial distribution of media?

What would the founding fathers really think of mercantile elites playing this big a role in artistic expression?

Re:What puzzles me (4, Insightful)

Chibi Merrow (226057) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068721)

If I understand the question properly, then in answer I'd point to places like Homestar Runner [homestarrunner.com] , PvP [pvponline.com] , Penny-Arcade [penny-arcade.com] , etc. all of which grew up on free distribution of their art and have become well known both on and off the Internet. If you think they're not cultural icons, I'd offer Homestar Runner's 'Trogdor' character showing up in the Final Episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or the infamous Cardboard Tube of Penny Arcade appearing in Legacy of Kain 3.

Or do they not count for some reason? :)

Write-up would be more accurate... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10068514)

...if you replaced the word 'hilarious' with the word 'tired.' I'm all for parady, but this one was pedestrian.

At least... (5, Insightful)

drakyri (727902) | more than 9 years ago | (#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

Slightly OT: Works of satire? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10068538)

Does anyone here know law well enough to explain how works of satire are regulated? It seems to me like this would be a fairly good example, though I might be wrong... I've heard of other cases, too, where it seems like the work might be protected (Cthulhu tracts, anybody?) but the author was prevented from keeping their work out because of existing copyrights. In other words, are works of satire protected under the law, and if so, what kind of protection is in place, and what is NOT protected?

I have a dream speach (4, Insightful)

Ziak (807893) | more than 9 years ago | (#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

Re:I have a dream speach (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10068573)

Why? Should that speech be any less valuable to its creator and his family because he was African American?

Do you think that anything of serious nature and substance that marks an important turning event in the history of your country ought to be ripped from the hands of its creator and given to the masses?

Re:I have a dream speach (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10068684)

Ooh, another misguided metaphore about tangible property. It's like hunting for easter eggs!

not a patriotic song (2, Informative)

mandrake*rpgdx (650221) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068563)

WTF- this land (the original song) is not a patriotic song. It was a proto-communist anthem. The lyrics are trying to get people to vote in communistic or socialistic changes into the American system. Makes sense when you think that this written during the dustbowl era, and Woody Guthrie was an active communist.

Numbnuts.

The difference between Parody and Satire (1, Informative)

voss (52565) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068571)

Parody is protected because you are
making fun OF THE SONG.

Satire is NOT protected because you are using
someones song for an alternate purpose.

Why should satire not be protected? Imagine you are the author of a song about how much you love linux. Imagine if Microsoft used your song in a commercial that was bashing linux, and just changed a few words. They are not making fun of the song, they are using the song for their own purposes in violation of your copyright.

For everyone saying "the first amendment"...
Copyright is in the constitution.

The reason why "This land" is not protected is
NOT the first amendment but because the copyright
expired...a strong argument for limited copyrights.
The founders had the right idea...14+14. Personally
I would give authors a break 28+28 like it was before 1976.

Re:The difference between Parody and Satire (1)

Lendrick (314723) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068703)

For everyone saying "the first amendment"...
Copyright is in the constitution.


So is the first amendment.

Re:The difference between Parody and Satire (4, Informative)

Ignignot (782335) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068740)

Parody is protected because you are making fun OF THE SONG.

From Dictionary.com:
A literary or artistic work that imitates the characteristic style of an author or a work for comic effect or ridicule.

It doesn't say it has to make fun of the song, only imitate the style and be funny, sarcastic, or ironic. Not that dictionary.com is the end all resource.

Satire is NOT protected because you are using someones song for an alternate purpose.

Again from dictionary.com:
A literary work in which human vice or folly is attacked through irony, derision, or wit.

It seems that satire doesn't involve imitation at all. Political satire is a longstanding tradition in both British and American literature, and more recently in cartoons. South Park, for example, is often a satire but not a parody. When they show the Vatican worshiping a spider queen, that's satire, not parody. Satire doesn't have to be protected under copyright because it doesn't have to be derivative. Parody is a case where you take someone else's style and use it to be funny, maybe make fun of the author or the song, maybe make fun of something else. It has to be protected because normally that would be considered plagiarism. The whole point is that it is obviously, intentionally deriviative and they are using the fact of imitation to produce either humor or ridicule.

two points (5, Funny)

emtboy9 (99534) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068583)

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!

What a Poor Settlement! (4, Insightful)

Royster (16042) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068629)

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?

Re:What a Poor Settlement! (1)

jonathan_ingram (30440) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068689)

Well, for a start, it means that we can get 'This Land' into PG, where it will be freely available for everyone.

Am I the only one... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#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.

This song is my song, this song is your song (5, Informative)

kfg (145172) | more than 9 years ago | (#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

Oh, boy! (0)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068710)


Now we can use it for the /. theme song:

This site is Slash-dot
It's news for ner-erds
And stuff that mat-ters
Or so they sa-ay
If you don't read it
You might get la-ayed
This site was made for dorks like me!

Guthrie would approve (2, Funny)

The Wicked Priest (632846) | more than 9 years ago | (#10068719)

This song was made for you and me!
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