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Monday, August 02, 2004

This Lawsuit is My Lawsuit

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Trouble is brewing for the folks at Jib Jab, purveyors of the wildly funny animated movie titled "This Land". Apparently, the Jib Jab guys did not get permission to use Woody Guthrie's song, "This Land is Our Land" in their film. (I wonder why they didn't bother with that, but you can't unring a bell)

The owners of the song think its use in the film is a blatant copyright infringement and they want it to stop. Oh, and they'd like some money, too. On the other hand, the Jib Jab brothers say its a parody and since its a parody they are entitled to its use without license (1st amendment, freedom of speech blahdy blah blah blah).

As of right now, the grappling is taking place by mail. Pointed and firmly worded letters have been exchanged, but still just letters nonetheless. Beverly Hills attorney Paul V. LiCalsi writes a pretty good warning letter but the guys at Jib Jab just might hold their own. Responding is Fred von Lohmann with a fair rendition of both fair use and parody issues.

This is interesting stuff friendly readers! The stuff a good law exam is made of. We are asked to decide what the heck is a parody any way? (Or more specifically: What is meant by parody for purposes of the application of law to this set of particular facts?) I am in analysis heaven! Oh happy day.

But wait... this is NOT a law school exam. This is reality. And in reality, two very talented guys are going to have to expend some serious cash to defend their little movie. I'd like to see, at a minimum, the cranky kill-joys at Ludlow Music Inc. show some harm to their interests in the copy right before the threats start to fly. It's reasonable, in my opinion, to ask the Jib Jab guys to pay a fair licensing fee for the use of the song (plus interest to date if they want to be picky). Fair to ask them to pay for it like they should of to begin with. But in the absence of some damage to Ludlow, that should be all they get. No one is confused by this version and likely to buy Jib Jab's This Land thinking it's actually Woody Guthries. They are two different things. Clearly.

Perhaps it is my sincere love of this type of speech that makes me lean a little toward the Jib Jab camp. I agree that their film is parody not just of this particular election but also of the underlying unity theme of the original "This Land" song itself. (In the movie they have a native American Indian saying "This land was my land"... that should end the argument right there.)

So, I hope this does not go to court. Not because I fear failure for the parody argument but because I think it would be money wasted. and time. Lot's of wasted time. Time the guy's at Jib Jab could use to make another movie... maybe one about contentious copy right holders called "This Song is My Song".


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