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07/29/2004 Archived Entry: "JibJab gets cease-and-desist order for "This Land""
OKAY, WE WATCHED IT. PROBABLY A DOZEN TIMES. Now time to go help pay for it -- and maybe pay its legal bills, too. I'm talking about "This Land," the current parody over at JibJab. The two brothers who created it have had 25 million hits, made a whopping thousand bucks, and now the company that owns the copyright to (but of course, did not write) Woody Guthrie's "This Land" has sent them a cease and desist order.
I'm all for intellectual property, as I've loudly wailed. But the no-no order is a classic abuse of copyright. Parodies aren't piracy; they're commentary. Woody Guthrie has been dead for 37 years. Copyright protection on a song this old doesn't protect any creator's rights; it only stifles creativity -- creativity being exactly what IP protection is supposed to encourage. Besides, according to Wired's article on the situation, Woody Guthrie himself wrote this on one of his songbook pages:
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.
Last week there was a pay-to-download option for "This Land." It's gone now (perhaps because JibJab wants to make it clear they're not "pirating" the song for profit). But there's an Amazon.com honor system option, so anybody with a credit card can make a micro-donation to the cause. And damn that thing is funny. Well worth paying for.
Posted by Claire @ 11:31 AM CST