Music Publisher Claims Copyright on the Public Domain's "This Land is Your Land"
During the 2004 Presidential Election, the Internet animation company JibJab produced one of the most notable viral hits of the season -- an animated video of candidates George Bush and John Kerry singing a song to the tune of Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land." After the JibJab founders appeared on television to promote their hit, music publisher Ludlow Music sent the duo a threat letter, claiming to be the copyright owner of the Guthrie song, and demanding that JibJab take down their hilarious video.
EFF represented JibJab in a suit that sought judicial confirmation that JibJab's work was a fair use. During the course of litigation, EFF discovered that the copyright to "This Land is Your Land" expired in 1973, meaning that the song is in the public domain, giving JibJab and (any any creator) every right to make use of it. JibJab and Ludlow Music settled, and the video is still available as a testament to creativity and Ludlow's baseless attempt to silence its charm.