This song is your song, this song is my song

Friday, July 30th, 2004 @ 3:43 am | Current Events

Jibjab, the fine folks who brought you the hilarious “This Land is your Land” flash parody, have received a cease-and-desist order from Ludlow Music, the copyright holders of Woody Guthrie’s work.

As the Wired article states, it’s unlikely that Guthrie would support the actions of the current copyright holders: “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.”

“This Land is Your Land” is often held in great regard as a patriotic anthem, which indeed it is. But ironically, Guthrie incorporated socialist themes into the song, as illustrated by the original lyrics:

As I was walking, I saw a sign there:
And on the sign there, it said “No Tresspassing”
But on the other side, it didn’t say nothing –
That side was made for you and me.

In the squares of the city, by the shadow of the steeple
By the relief office, I saw my people
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking,
Is this land still made for you and me?

To add to the irony, the melody to the song (which legal counsel for Ludlow maintains was infringed upon) was lifted from a classic gospel number, “When the World’s on Fire.”

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