July 26, 2004 | By Fred von Lohmann

This Land Isn't Your Land

The two brothers who created the fantastic "This Land" parody -- sending up President Bush, Senator Kerry, and the current state of American democracy to the tune of "This Land is Your Land" -- have been threatened with a copyright lawsuit.

You see, the classic American song, penned by renowned leftist folk singer Woody Guthrie in 1940, is apparently still under copyright. And the copyright is now in the hands of Ludlow Music, Inc., a unit of The Richmond Organization.

If this isn't fair use, it's hard to imagine what is. One can only imagine what Woody himself would have said, who once used this as his standard copyright notice:

"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."

Professor Larry Lessig has often complained that "fair use is the right to hire a lawyer." Well, it looks like yet another parodist interested in free expression will be called upon to risk litigation in order to vindicate our First Amendment rights. EFF has been contacted by the fine folks at Jib Jab, who are considering their options. Stay tuned.


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