Who Cares Whose Footprints Those Are In The Sand... The Real Question Is Who Gets The Copyright?

from the of-all-the-ridiculous-copyright-battles... dept

You've probably come across the infamous "footprints in the sand" poem at some point in your life. It's hard to avoid. It's usually used as a religious parable about having God/Jesus/something "supporting" you during the toughest period in your life. For many years, it was attributed to "anonymous" and found on all sorts of kitschy merchandise. Except, at some point, with all that merchandise, people started to realize that there may be money in "owning" such a poem, and suddenly, out of the woodwork, approximately a dozen different folks have shown up to claim authorship -- with a few filing for the copyright, and a legal battle now ensuing. If you thought the saga over the Happy Birthday copyright was confusing, you haven't seen anything yet.

Some of the stories of alleged authors seem slightly more credible than others, while some are just downright bizarre:
"Meanwhile, there's Carolyn Joyce Carty, the other defendant in Zangare's suit. A self-proclaimed child prodigy and "world renowned poet laureate," Carty surfaced in the "Footprints" debate earlier this decade, saying she wrote the poem in 1963, when she was 6 years old, as an epilogue to a longer story she called "The Footprints of God." Actually, she claims her grandmother first wrote it in 1922, and then young Carolyn wrote it, and it is unclear, from a brief e-mail exchange with a reporter, if Carty understands what it means to have written something. She also filed a copyright on "Footprints," claiming it as her "contribution to society." She maintains a wondrously baffling "Footprints" Web site where, among other things, she claims she wrote the lyrics to "In My Life" before the Beatles did.
The real kicker, though, is that research suggests none of the dozen or so claimants actually wrote the poem or deserve the copyright for it. One researcher has tracked the concept of the story back to a sermon in 1880 and it may go back even further. Even more amusing, that same discussion points to the poet Robert Louis Stevenson writing an essay in 1894, where he discusses tangentially the same idea of footprints in the sand... but uses it to explain why it's so difficult it is for a creative writer to avoid borrowing from the works of those who have come before. Indeed. But, thanks to copyright, there's apparently plenty of money in pretending you came up with the idea all on your own. For one of the many folks who "claim" that she wrote the poem, and who has been most aggressive about licensing it, it has turned into "best-remunerated poem in history," according to her lawyer. Those footprints in the sand sure can carry a lot of weight, but what good does it do if it doesn't come with a copyright and a boatload of cash?


Reader Comments (rss)

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  •  
    identicon
    eleete, Jun 2nd, 2008 @ 12:22pm

    RIAA

    The RIAA owns it, is there any doubt ?

    eleete

     

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  •  
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    WarOtter (profile), Jun 2nd, 2008 @ 12:54pm

    I own them

    I am submitting my patent for using your feet to place 'Foot Prints' in the sand. Anyone caught reproducing this work on their own must now pay me a royalty or face being pelted with oranges while you flop around on a tarp covered in butter.

    I will also be submitting my 'Foot Prints in Snow, Mud, and plaster" patents soon.

     

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    •  
      identicon
      Not Applicable, Jun 2nd, 2008 @ 1:16pm

      Re: I own them

      What about footprints in concrete? That one is mine. I guess
      all those Hollywood types owe me for all those ones on the "walk of stars". "Footprints in Concrete" c1971 K Robertson

       

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      identicon
      Hael, Jun 2nd, 2008 @ 2:31pm

      Re: I own them

      Hmm, I actually own the copyright to any impression in sand, including those made by footprints. I was particularly excited when I had this flash of inspiration where I took some water and splashed it over one of my previous copyrighted prints to create, what I call, my beach footprint. So you may own the patent on the device (feet), but if you use your patented device to make said impression, then you will need to pay up.

       

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 2nd, 2008 @ 12:55pm

    what's next? someone gonna claim they wrote the bible?

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 2nd, 2008 @ 1:02pm

    bible mine!

     

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  •  
    identicon
    C, Jun 2nd, 2008 @ 1:03pm

    Oh my...

    Not everything has to be something in which it is owned by a specific person or company. It IS possibly to have something owned by society as a whole.

    For example, who owns the English language? UK? Courts need to just throw these ridiculous claims out as its nothing but a waste of time for them, and waste of money which inflates the need for lawyers and essentially wastes money all-round.

    If I could only find my stupid stick for beating these kinda of people?

     

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      YeOldeBastard (profile), Jun 2nd, 2008 @ 2:20pm

      Re: Oh my...

      "Who owns the English Language"? funny you should ask...

      check any dictionary you like. They all have the "no part of this work may be reproduced in any form..." BS copyright notice. So - all the dictionaries do, and EVERYONE who writes down ANYTHING is in violation of their copyrights to every word in the English Language.

      Wanna take that one to court?

       

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      •  
        identicon
        ehrichweiss, Jun 2nd, 2008 @ 6:13pm

        Re: Re: Oh my...

        All this reminds me of the old Steven Wright joke:

        "Why is the alphabet in that order? Is it because of that song? If so, whoever wrote that song, wrote everything."

         

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 2nd, 2008 @ 1:06pm

    GOOD GRIEF!!!!!!

    Magusyk

     

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  •  
    identicon
    DS78, Jun 2nd, 2008 @ 1:12pm

    MPAA

    The MPAA owns. I saw it in a movie... in 1922.

     

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    identicon
    Lucretious, Jun 2nd, 2008 @ 1:17pm

    Echo's of the Desiderata controversy.

     

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    identicon
    I own it, Jun 2nd, 2008 @ 1:34pm

    Thats mine too

    I copyrighted the copyright, when am I gonna get paid?

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Forcing registration of original work, Jun 2nd, 2008 @ 1:36pm

    Knock of this non-sense by

    This kind of crap could be resolved by simply forcing the author of any original work to register for copyright purposes prior to ANY publication. You don't register before you publish, instant public domain. There is sufficient technology in place today to automate nearly all aspects of a registration process.

     

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    •  
      identicon
      Michael, Jun 2nd, 2008 @ 2:14pm

      Re: Knock of this non-sense by

      Pre-1976 the opt-in requirement you propose was the law; it is only since that copyright attachments the moment a creative work is fixed in a tangible medium.

       

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        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Jun 2nd, 2008 @ 2:22pm

        Re: Re: Knock of this non-sense by

        Yes, I know. This requirement should be reinstated. It would stop a lot of the nonsense - like threatening to sue anyone who looks at the HTML behind your web page because you have a copyright on it.

        On a slightly different tangent the same could be said for patents. I think requiring a 'working model' of your invention would clobber most of these overly broad patents issued for things like uploading a jpeg to a web page. Show us your 'invention' works before you get the patent.

         

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    identicon
    Rocky Racoon, Jun 2nd, 2008 @ 1:40pm

    Okay, that does it, I'm patenting a method for placing bibles in hotel room drawers. Gideons beware!

     

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    identicon
    Sam, Jun 2nd, 2008 @ 2:32pm

    Each version of the bible is actually copyrighted, but the provisions for quoting and reprinting are very generous. If you want to publish your own translation, you have to do the work yourself or license it in most cases. I think :)

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Lawyers blow, Jun 2nd, 2008 @ 2:39pm

    Blame Lawyers

    I don't necessarily blame the people who are stupid enough to file these suits. It's the lawyers who tell the people "Sure, that'll work". They're the ones getting rich and making our legal system a joke. When did money take the place of common sense in our courts?

    Wait.. COPYRIGHT! The use of common sense in a court of law is MY idea. When they start using it I'll make a KILLING!

     

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  •  
    identicon
    DB, Jun 2nd, 2008 @ 2:45pm

    Footprints

    I guess I have been living under a rock or something. What is this footprints in the sand thing?

     

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  •  
    identicon
    TW Burger, Jun 2nd, 2008 @ 2:54pm

    Society Rewards Immorality

    Every day I see a case where society rewards immorality as long as the individual/company has good enough lawyers and the money to pay them.

    However, this seems to be so obviously wrong that I can only conclude that the entire legal system must be encouraging this behavior by throwing out common sense under the guise of legal fairness - you can argue you own heaven as long as you pay the legal fees. I hope it comes with an option on hell.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Joe, Jun 2nd, 2008 @ 5:12pm

    Patent ~= Copyright

    I wish people would keep that clear.

    Copyright has been extended to silly lengths of time. Meanwhile, patents have been extended to include silly *things*.

    Anyhow, what does the poem say about the 20 sets of footprints, chasing after the single pair?

    "Jesus answered: those were the times you tried to screw Me over, scrambling like wolves over a haunch of meat."

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 2nd, 2008 @ 7:13pm

    I wrote that in a prior life and now claim ownership.
    You all owe me big time

     

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    identicon
    disgusted, Jun 3rd, 2008 @ 4:30am

    Obviously, Mike, that poem wopuldn't have been written without the incentive of copyright, and someone needs to be paid for it. Because in the end money's the only thing that really matters.

     

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    identicon
    Nasch, Jun 3rd, 2008 @ 7:50am

    Infamous?

    What is "infamous" about this poem?

     

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    identicon
    Burrell Webb, Jun 23rd, 2008 @ 12:00am

    footprints in the sand

    Young man; It looks like you have not yet matured enough to think objectively. While I share your disgust at the number of liars who claim to have authored this poem, since only one person can enjoy that privilage; I can find no merit in negative and anti social orientation such as that which you display in your article. The internet is not for puking poison upon society but for enlightened communication.

     

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    identicon
    amber Relph, May 23rd, 2013 @ 3:55pm

    Carolyn Joyce Carty

    Unfortunately, I know this woman Carolyn Carty who claims to have wrotten this poem as a 6yo child prodigy.. I share a child with her son..
    These people are frauds, and outright lunatics!!
    Carolyn also claims to be the secret love child of Marilyn Monroe, and JFK too..
    I just thought Id share that lol!
    She is a mentally unstable methamphetamine addict, who lives off the government ssi and welfare.
    I didn't think she was" with it" enough to even make a claim like that lmao!

     

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