JibJab In Legal Trouble over This Land Song
Created 07/29/2004 - 23:00
files/pictures/picture-35.jpgEvan and Gregg Spiridellis have been making political cartoons since the inception of their of JibJab Media, but their newest short set to the tune of Woody Guthrie's classic song, "This Land Is Your Land" has garnered them worldwide fame and legal troubles. The film, which has President George W. Bush and his opponent Senator John Kerry exchanging insults, has spurred legal action against JibJab from Ludlow Music, who owns the copyright to Guthrie's tune.
Ludlow attorney Paul LiCalsi issued a cease-and-desist order to JibJab requesting it pull the short because JibJab never gained the rights to use the Guthrie song. Ludlow Music, a unit of music publisher The Richmond Organization, has not filed a lawsuit against JibJab and hopes to resolve the case without going to court.
LiCalsi also wrote, "We further demand an accounting for all income received from the exploitation of the unauthorized movie. In the event that we do not receive written confirmation by July 30, 2004, that JibJab will comply with the foregoing, we may conclude that all steps short of litigation are exhausted."
Gregg Spiridellis told WIRED that he hasn't been advised by his attorney to remove the short. "My guess is the fact that people responded so strongly is one reason -- is the reason it's so successful and is also the reason, I guess, they're coming after us." JibJab felt they were clear under fair-use territory. Fair use allows limited unauthorized use of copyright works to complement or help illuminate things like commentary, criticism, news reports, research and education. Fair use also considers whether the copyright work in question is used to make a profit, what type of copyright work is being used, how much of it is being used and if the work's author is losing money from the unauthorized use.
"For us, this was a clear fair-use parody from day one," Gregg Spiridellis said. "And even ... how we conceived the idea was to say Woody Guthrie was this incredible, prolific songwriter and just had these incredible, insightful things to say in his political songs, and we thought it would be funny if Woody Guthrie was alive today and just using the discourse of American politics in his songs."
Spiridellis said the company made about $1,000 from donations in the past week, however has seen Internet bandwidth charges of $20,000 due to the film's popularity.
LiCalsi claims that THIS LAND isn't a parody. "You can't just take someone's copyright and use it for some other purpose. A true parody is a work that uses a portion of a copyrighted work in order to criticize or comment on that work. It's the same principle under which you can quote a book, if you're writing a review of a book, without getting a license. Something is not a parody when there is no function of critique or comment on the original work. I think it's clear here that that is the case in the JibJab version of THIS LAND."
Gregg Spiridellis said, "It's up to the publisher. If they choose to make our (lives) miserable, then I guess that's a legal right they have at their disposal. Hopefully, you know, if that happens we'll tell everyone about it."