JibJab’s “This Land” presidential campaign parody has been getting a lot of attention from the news media — and, more recently, from the copyright holder in the parodied song. Larry thinks this isn’t a parody; Ernie thinks it is.
A few people have quoted this copyright notice from a songbook Guthrie sent out to fans who requested the lyrics to his songs in the 1930s:
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.
“This Land” was first published in printed form, it appears, in a mimeographed pamphlet Guthrie sold called Ten Songs for Two Bits. That was in 1946.
1. Was that language on a published copy of “This Land” before Guthrie sold the rights to Ludlow? If so, there will be a waiver argument making the “This Land” flash movie potentially noninfringing.
2. Did this mimeographed pamphlet contain proper copyright notice? Current copies of the song bear a 1956 copyright date. Was selling a mimeographed pamphlet “publication”? Did the work enter the public domain in 1946?
There might be more (or, depending on your perspective, less) to this case than the parody issue. I hope the EFF has fun with it.