JibJab Threatened Over Use Of Woody Guthrie Song

from the hello,-lawyer,-let-me-explain-satire-to-you... dept

For the last few weeks, the JibJab site and their amusing political parody of Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land" has been getting passed around the net. It's well done, and deserves much of the praise it's been getting. However, it appears the folks who own the rights to Woody Guthrie's music are anything but pleased, and are demanding that JibJab stop distributing the flash movie. Their biggest complaint seems to be that "This puts a completely different spin on the song," which will "damage" the song. Anyone who can't see how utterly ridiculous this is has no job watching over Woody Guthrie's music. Guthrie, after all, is the same singer who once put the following copyright notice on his work: "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." Apparently, no one told the folks at the humorless Richmond Organization.
Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • identicon
    Jerry, 27 Jul 2004 @ 9:07am

    Parody

    It's clearly parody, and the Supremes held this is ok in this decision. They wont get far with this suit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    drteknikal (profile), 28 Jul 2004 @ 6:52am

    I hope so

    I can only hope they pursue litigation. Aside from a slam-dunk example of satire and parody, there would be the sheer joy of having Woody's ghost testify for the defense.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Andy, 28 Jul 2004 @ 10:27am

    A dangerous admission by the owners!

    The real question (legally speaking) seems to be whether the song is permissible parody (a commentary on the work), or is it satire (a variation of the work to comment on something else)? Don't ask me why courts draw this distinction, but that's what it is about.

    My first reaction, alas, would be that this is impermissible satire and non-parody. But apparently, the owners disagree when they claim "This puts a completely different spin on the song," which will "damage" the song. If that is their position, then they lose. Either the work puts a spin on the song, in which case it *IS* protectible parody, or it does not. Their best argument here on copyright grounds, at least, would be that the song is NOT a parody, but rather a non-transformative borrowing of the familiar tune to sell a commentary to someone else.

    The "spin on" issue is a direct take from the Luther Campbell case over "O Pretty Woman." No matter how ugly the spin (and 2 Live Crew's spin was an ugly one), that is protected and fair use. It is only when you are not spinning, but stealing (in the strict dictionary sense) from the work to comment on something ELSE (like the "Cat Not in the Hat" satire of the OJ trial) that you can sue.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Mike G, 28 Jul 2004 @ 12:18pm

    Coincidence?

    I literally have no idea if there's a connection, but The Lincoln Club (an influential Republican organization) is chaired by "Larry Richmond." The Richman Organization’s president is "Larry Richmond." Hey, it's not really an unusual name, but they're also both located in Southern California.

    Hmmm...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    william page, 29 Jul 2004 @ 5:12pm

    This land

    The current owners of the rights to Guthrie's song "This Land" miss the original intent of the work and are claiming damage over work inspired by communism. Guthrie meant that this was eveyones land, a people's land just as the Bolsheviks told the czar before murdering him. Like many things it has changed over time and today it probably ranks behind the Star Spangled Banner, and America the Beautiful as our number three patriotic song.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Discord

Introducing the new Techdirt Insider Chat, now hosted on Discord. If you are an Insider with a membership that includes the chat feature and have not yet been invited to join us on Discord, please reach out here.

Loading...
Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it
Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.