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They’re playing our song

5 September 2004

In an unusual ‘David beats Goliath’ twist to a copyright case, a small webdesign outfit has found that it has the absolute right to use a well known song within its work without paying a license fee.

Wired reports that music publishers Ludlow Music threatened to sue JibJab  in early August, claiming that their latest satirical animations, which made use of Woody Guthrie’s folk song “This Land is Your Land” were a clear breach of Ludlow’s copyright of the material.  Ludlow had also recently successfully pursued Robbie Williams for £250,000 (link to ), claiming that his words to ‘Jesus in a Camper Van’ used substantial parts of other lyrics owned by Ludlow.

JibJab pulled in San Franciso-based copyright activists the Electronic Frontier Foundation to help. After extensive research, EFF’s in-house legal team found a surprising chink in Ludlow’s armour – they themselves had forgotten to renew their own copyright registrations way back in 1984.

"We did further research and we found that 'This Land Is Your Land' is in the public domain," said Jason Schultz of EFF. "'This Land Is Your Land' belongs to you and me." The EFF’s scan of Guthrie’s original lyrics and copyright information, complete with doodles and notes by the singer, can be seen here.

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