Posts Tagged ‘parody’

This Land is Our Land, but the Song Isn’t

JibJab, creator of that popular This Land Is Your Land political parody has been warned that they are infringing on Woody Guthrie’s copyright (see letter here.) As the Wired story notes, this action is the antithesis of the spirit of Woody Guthrie, who had this to say about copyrights:

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.

UPDATE: Much discussion of the issue can be found at The Volokh Conspiracy. Just keep scrolling.

Compromise satisfies New York Times

New York Times lawyers upset at a parody web page (dated “February 30” and satirizing the Times’ correction policy) backed off once a bold-faced disclaimer was added. (Daniel Okrent,, Mar. 15 (via Wonkette); “NY Times backs off”, New York Daily News, Mar. 16 (last item)). The disclaimer reads, in part:

The Times now recognizes that this Times Columnist Correction page was, and is, a parody intended to express through satire a dissatisfaction with a policy of The New York Times and was in no way intended to confuse people that it was a legitimate New York Times on the Web page. TND also recognizes The Times lawyers are not known for having a well-developed sense of humor and can be susceptible to “not getting the joke”. Therefore we hereby restate that this is not a legitimate New York Times web page. The Times would never issue corrections of a Times Op-Ed Columnist and any attempt to so construe from this parody of a Times web page will be considered punishable under some such law or another as we see fit.

Update: Fox gets skinned

Federal judge Denny Chin in Manhattan rebuffed Fox News’s request for an injunction to prevent the Penguin Group from releasing humorist Al Franken’s new book with a title mocking the network’s “Fair and Balanced” slogan (see Aug. 12). “There are hard cases and there are easy cases. This is an easy case,” said Judge Chin. “This case is wholly without merit both factually and legally.” “During arguments held before his ruling, Chin asked Fox lawyer Dorie Hansworth if she really believed that the [book’s] cover was confusing. ‘To me, it’s quite ambiguous as to what the message is,’ she said. ‘It’s a deadly serious cover … This is much too subtle to be considered a parody.” The book’s cover is dominated by its title, “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right”. (Gail Appleson, “Fox Loses Bid to Stop Sale of Franken Book”, Reuters/Yahoo, Aug. 22). Ernest Svenson (Ernie the Attorney) chides Fox not only for the weakness of its substantive trademark position but also for using its complaint as a vehicle for personal attacks on Franken: “the courts aren’t there for litigants who want retribution.” (“A lawyer’s take on Al Franken’s First Round Legal Victory”, Blogcritics, Aug. 22). Eugene Volokh also comments.

Fox’s thin pelt

Shrinking the parody exception? “Fox News Channel has sued liberal humorist Al Franken and the Penguin Group to stop them from using the phrase ‘fair and balanced’ in the title of his upcoming book. Filed Monday in Manhattan, the trademark infringement lawsuit seeks a court order forcing Penguin to rename the book, ‘Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right.’ It also asks for unspecified damages. Fox News registered ‘Fair & Balanced’ as a trademark in 1995, the suit says.” The suit claims that Franken displays a “clear” intent “to exploit Fox News’ trademark, confuse the public as to the origins of the book and, accordingly, boost sales of the book”. (“Fox Sues Humorist Al Franken Over Slogan”, AP/Washington Post, Aug. 11). Last month it was reported that lawyers for Fox had sent a cease-and-desist letter to the Austin, Tex. creators of a T-shirt with a message “Faux News: We Distort, You Comply”, parodying the network’s well-known slogan. (Lee Nichols, Austin Chronicle, Jul. 11; AgitProperties website, Jun. 20).

In June radio talk show host Michael Savage, who at the time also had a TV talk show on MSNBC, sued three critics who had been urging advertisers to boycott his show (“Savage sues ‘rats'”, Southern Voice, Jun. 27; defendants and TakeBacktheMedia). Separately, Savage’s producers fell short in an effort to argue that’s domain name was “confusingly similar” to that of Savage’s own website and should be forfeited. (& more on the Fox/Franken case: New York Times, Eugene Volokh, Kevin Drum, Matt Yglesias, and (via InstaPundit) Alex Knapp, Jeff Jarvis)(& letter to the editor, Dec. 6).