The Contested Ownership of “This Land Is Your Land”September 8, 2016

In the wake of litigation surrounding the classic song “Happy Birthday to You,”a class action suit has been filed addressing the classic folk song “This Land Is Your Land.”The class action case seeks to liberate the well-known song and place it in the public domain. It was filed on behalf of the band Satorii, which had previously recorded several different versions of the song. Satorii argues that the music properly belongs in the public domain, rather than with Richmond Organization and its subsidiary, Ludlow Music, who collects licensing fees from anyone seeking to use the song.

On Friday, September 2, 2016, the Richmond Organization filed a motion to have the case dismissed. Richmond Organization argues that Satorii has no standing. Further, Richmond Organization argued that if the lawsuit isn’t dismissed the ruling will put “all songwriters and the entirety of the music industry at risk”because the claims brought by Satorii have “no statutory support in the Copyright Act.‚¬

However, Satorii maintains that since the song was published in 1945 and its copyright was never renewed, the song entered the public domain 28 years later, in 1973. As Richmond Organization continued to collect licensing fees after the alleged date of release to the public domain, Satorii seeks not only a judicial declaration that the song is not owned by Richmond Organization, but also demands that the publisher return all licensing fees paid by any individual or group since 2010.

This is not the first time “This Land Is Your Land”has been the subject of litigation. In 2004, Richmond Organization/Ludlow threatened to enforce its copyright in 2004 when JibJab Media created a “This Land”video parody of the presidential election featuring caricatures of John Kerry and George W. Bush. Ultimately Ludlow and JibJab Media reached a settlement allowing JibJab to continue its production of the parody. Thus Satorii, as part of seeking a judicial declaration and return of licensing fees, will need to also show that Ludlow never had a right to assert this copyright in 2004.

← Return to Filewrapper

Stay in Touch

Receive the latest news and updates from us and our attorneys.

Sign Up