July 28, 2004 | By Fred von Lohmann

Update on JibJab's "This Land"

As mentioned earlier this week, Ludlow Music Inc., owner of Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land," is invoking copyright in an effort to silence JibJab's very funny "This Land" animated short (here is Ludlow's latest threat letter).

EFF has taken JibJab on as a client. We've posted our reply letter (PDF):

...In your July 23 letter, you contend that "This Land" offers no "satirical comment" on the Guthrie original. You are mistaken.

While your view of Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land" as being predominantly about "the beauty of the American landscape" and "the disenfranchisement of the underclass" is interesting, most Americans think of the song as an iconic expression of the ideal of national unity. Jib Jab's parody addresses, among other things, the lack of national unity that characterizes our current political climate (ending with the optimistic hope that unity might be rediscovered). In short, "This Land" explores exactly the same themes as the Guthrie original, using the parodic device of contrast and juxtaposition to comment on the original. See Abilene Music v. Sony Music Entertainment, 320 F.Supp.2d 84, 90-91 (S.D.N.Y. 2003) (emphasizing the role of contrast and juxtaposition as parodic devices). The parodic comment takes on an additional dimension of irony when viewed in light of the often omitted closing stanzas of Guthrie's original....

Rather than addressing JibJab's free speech and fair use rights, Ludlow's lawyers have now sent threat letters to JibJab's hosting provider, AtomFilms, as well as to AtomFilm's upstream provider -- evidently in an effort to get "This Land" censored right off the Internet.

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