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More info on JibJab

I don't have much time to pontificate about this, but I just noticed some more updates on the JibJab issue I wrote about earlier today. Thanks again goes to Lawrence Lessig's blog (via lawrencelessig) for the links.

Lessig's latest blog entry points out a criticism of Lessig's claims that, if accurate, would indicate that the JibJab piece is indeed parody, and thus protected under "fair use" clauses in copyright law. On the other hand, Chris Cohen agrees with Lessig and claims that the piece is satire, which is not protected under "fair use" clauses. There is a lot more interesting information about the legal difference between parody and satire at those links.

Also, JibJab has contacted the EFF for legal help on this issue. Good for them! They point out that Woody Guthrie used the following as his standard copyright notice:

"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."

I really hope JibJab comes through this a winner. Getting the help of the EFF will go a long way to helping them out.

Comments

bodnej
Jul. 27th, 2004 09:28 pm (UTC)
The question becomes, how do you fix copyright law so that people who create stuff get compensated, but you still have the ability for other people to create new, derivative works? The parody exception strikes me as unfair; why is it OK to sample a song to make fun of it, but not to improve it?

I don't know if Lessig has proposed this already, but a compulsory license (with the fee paid as a percentage of net revenue) would be fair. And the new version has to be substantially different to a reasonable person (no changing one word in a book and calling it a new work). But if the JibJab guys make a ton of money off their parody (not that I think they will), why not give some fraction of that to the estate? It sounds like Guthrie wouldn't have cared, but he doesn't own the copyright. He could have released his work into the public domain, but he didn't, so now we have to deal with greedy relatives. C'est la vie.
drmellow
Jul. 28th, 2004 07:47 pm (UTC)
I'm pretty sure Lessig has proposed (or is in favor of) compulsory licensing. The suggestion you present for basing the fee on net revenue poses an interesting problem, however -- how do you determine net revenue? It didn't cost me anything to watch JibJab's funny parody/satire, so there's no revenue at all, is there? What if JibJab sells stuff at their website and are using the parody/satire to help draw people in the door -- does that mean the revenues of everything they sell at their web store counts? What if I came to their web store with no knowledge of the parody/satire -- is my sale exempt? *shrug* I don't know the answer to those questions, either, but I think some sort of compulsory licensing is in order.

Or, maybe not. As a content creator, I may not want anyone to be able to do anything with my work without my approval. Shouldn't I be able to have that right, at least for a limited amount of time? Yes, I think so -- I think that's what copyright was originally intended to protect, and I think that's a good form of protection.

Another note, I don't think we're dealing with greedy relatives here in Guthrie's case. I think the song's copyright is held by a publishing company, not by the Guthrie estate, so we're really just dealing with big business, which is why it's not surprising at all that lawers got involved.

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