August 24, 2004

JibJab Suit Settled

The EFF has a press release announcing the settlement of JibJab’s declaratory judgment suit against Ludlow Music.

In a personally gratifying outcome, the copyright on This Land Is Your Land is invalid because:

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.

As I noted:

“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.

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?

It wasn’t quite as I predicted; the pamphlet did bear copyright notice, it turns out, but Ludlow flubbed the renewal because they didn’t know about the earlier publication. (And the pamphlet was from 1945, not 1946; my source got it wrong.) But I’m glad to see that I may have sent EFF in the right direction; Fred von Lohmann emailed me soon after that previous post asking where I’d gotten my information on Ten Songs for Two Bits.

EFF somehow (quite impressively) dug up a copy of the 1945 pamphlet. “This Land” appears on page 8.

Just one more reason why formalities should be sorely missed.

Disclaimer Haiku:
West wind seems to say,
"This is not legal advice;
I'm not your lawyer."

(And if you're a client with whom I have a preexisting attorney-client relationship, this still isn't legal advice.)

In case you're wondering, this blog is also not intended as advertising, as a representation of anything but my personal opinion, or as an offer of representation.

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