'We Shall Overcome' Overcomes Bogus Copyright Claim -- Officially In The Public Domain

from the overcoming-copyright dept

The same legal team that helped get the song "Happy Birthday" officially cleared into the public domain has done it again with the song "We Shall Overcome." As we wrote about, the same team filed a similar lawsuit against The Richmond Organization and Ludlow Music, who claimed a highly questionable copyright in the famous song "We Shall Overcome." As the lawsuit showed, the song had a lengthy history long before Ludlow's copyright claim.

Last September, the judge made it clear that the song's claimed copyright was on weak grounds, rejecting arguments that key parts of the song were subject to copyright. Apparently, Ludlow Music tried to salvage something out of the wreck by just promising to offer a "covenant not to sue" against the plaintiffs... which the judge said wasn't good enough earlier this month.

So, now the two sides have come to a settlement clearly admitting that the song is in the public domain:

Defendants agree that hearafter they will not claim copyright in the melody or lyrics of any verse of the song We Shall Overcome ("the Song").... Defendants agree that the melody and lyrics of those verses of the Song are hereafter dedicated to the public domain.

This is, obviously, a good result. Though I find it a little tacky that the defendants now want to "dedicate" the song to the public domain, when the truth is the song has been in the public domain all along, and it was only a false copyright claim by the defendants that attempted to hide the fact that it was in the public domain. Also, as with "Happy Birthday," these publishers still got to profit off of years of licensing a song they had no legitimate right to license.

Still, it's good to see yet another song officially in the public domain without any legal dispute over its status. The full dispute isn't over yet, as the plaintiffs are still seeking legal fees, which they very well may get. Now let's see if these same two defendants can be convinced to let go of their bogus copyright claim on Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land," as they're facing a very, very similar lawsuit over that song too.


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  • icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 26 Jan 2018 @ 8:51pm

    Well, would you look at that—the US still has a growing public domain!

    I mean, yeah, this is just one major work that has fallen out of the clutches of copyright, but that is still far more than what we usually get every year.

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

    • icon
      Toom1275 (profile), 26 Jan 2018 @ 9:32pm

      Re:

      Give copyright an inch and it'll take miles. Getting a precious few inches back is a war, but one that just saw one of the battles won.

      A victory is a victory.

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

      • icon
        Toom1275 (profile), 26 Jan 2018 @ 9:33pm

        Re: Re:

        This is one of the true fights against copyright theft.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 27 Jan 2018 @ 7:26am

        Re: Natural Rights

        but, but there will be endless chaos, thievery, and muting of artistic creativity -- if the government does not regulate the music business thru copyright protections. We always need a strong government presence to keep the evildoers in check in any human endeavor.
        Every person, rich or poor, of any ethnicity, is born with a Copyright Right. /S

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Jan 2018 @ 9:38pm

    Burn Baby Burn

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Jan 2018 @ 8:49am

    out_of_the_blue's really not going to like this, is he?

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

  • icon
    Toom1275 (profile), 27 Jan 2018 @ 9:55am

    The losers just wanted to claim ownership of the song because it's too much of a "sound-alike" to the MAFIAA's marching anthem of "We shall Over-Copyright" so therefore they most own it too.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Jan 2018 @ 10:30am

    Why don't they start claiming copyright over Miley Cyrus wrecking ball, madonna's like a virgin etc?

    Oh because they'd get sued to oblivion.

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

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 28 Jan 2018 @ 9:49pm

      Re:

      The challenge to this now-dead copyright was to prove the flimsiness of a copyright claim for “We Shall Overcome”. “Wrecking Ball” and “Like a Virgin” have well-documented copyright registrations.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2018 @ 1:02pm

    Public domain, copyright cartel's public enemy.

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


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