Wednesday, August 25, 2004

"This Land" does belong to you and me: Wired News reports that Ludlow Music has dropped its demand that stop using Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land" in a satirical Flash-animation cartoon. Jason Schultz, a lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which represented the website, says Ludlow doesn't own the rights to the song, which apparently has lapsed into the public domain:
While researching the case, the EFF discovered that Woody Guthrie published a songbook in 1945 that included "This Land Is Your Land." The EFF found a copy of the songbook at the Library of Congress. At that time, copyright holders owned their work for 28 years, and could renew the copyright once during the first term, for another 28 years.

When Guthrie published the songbook, that "started the clock ticking on the 28 years," Schultz said. Guthrie never renewed it, meaning the terms of the copyright expired in 1973.

Ludlow, meanwhile, registered the song in 1956 as an original copyright, not the renewal. The company was apparently unaware that because Guthrie had already published the song, the terms of copyright began in 1945, not 1956, Schultz said.
Ludlow's attorney disputes the idea that the copyright has expired, and contends the music company settled with JibJab "to avoid the expense and difficulties of litigation."

Under the terms of the settlement, JibJab agreed to donate 20 percent of proceeds to the Woody Guthrie Foundation, and link to the original lyrics.