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Friday, August 06, 2004

Give the People What They Want (JibJab updates)
From the Green Bay News-Chronicle:

The folks at a major greeting card manufacturer - I won't mention its name, but I'm sure it's in the card Hall of Fame (wink, wink) - sent out a release this week saying the Green Bay-Appleton area was ranked 23rd among America's funniest cities....

...my belief is that this survey may just reflect the election. Everything else does. As a "swing state," we're getting to see more of the presidential candidates than most others. That has to be making us laugh.

In fact, the best commentary on the election has come not from pundits, network commentators or political science professionals.

It's come from a little Web site done by two brothers, who have put together a parody of Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land." Photo cutouts of President Bush and Sen. John Kerry dance around and insult each other as "a liberal wiener" and "a right-wing nut job." Sadly, they've summed up this election in about three minutes of computer animation. (If you haven't seen it, it's at www.jibjab.com.)

Let's face it; we've got two candidates who are nothing more than walking caricatures. Both are so busy trying to make political points against each other, they haven't told us what they're actually going to do. And even if they did, you couldn't trust them to do it. And one of these people is going to run our nation for the next four years?

That doesn't make you laugh, it makes you cry.

And the Arizona Republic weighs in:

Hits to jibjab.com, the parody Web site that has brought new life to the Woody Guthrie classic This Land Is Your Land, grew more than 400 percent last week, USA Today reports. That makes it the fastest-growing site, according to Nielsen//NetRatings. AtomFilms says the short animated film - which pokes fun at Sen. John Kerry and President George W. Bush with the rousing refrain of "This land will surely vote for me!" - has been viewed more than 25 million times.

Katie Dean at Wired waves the banner of the freedom of two little brothers, threatened by Goliath:

It's a clear example of a legal concept called fair use, say the lawyers for JibJab and advocates of liberal copyright laws. If JibJab wins, the case could embolden artists to fend off copyright holders' aggressive lawyers, who increasingly view digital distribution as a threat.

"This is an important case to set the tone for artists and authors who want to make use of famous works," said Fred von Lohmann, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is representing JibJab.

JibJab and the EFF say JibJab did not infringe anybody's copyright because of the American doctrine of fair use....In general, an artist or writer can copy excerpts from the works of others for the purposes of education, criticism, research or news reporting.

Von Lohmann said the concept of fair use became somewhat constricted with the advent of broadcast media, because risk-averse executives questioned artists' rights to use other people's materials. So the rise of the modern industry "artificially constrained fair use," he said. Now, with the Web and the Internet, artists don't have to go through media executives to reach tens of millions of people, giving them the freedom to "insist on their full measure of fair-use rights."...

Copyright attorneys said the JibJab case resembles several previous fair-use cases. In the so-called "Barbie in a blender" case, a judge for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that photographer Thomas Forsythe had the right to photograph naked Barbie dolls in compromising positions with kitchen appliances. In 1994, the Supreme Court ruled that the rap group 2 Live Crew had the right to parody the song "Oh Pretty Woman" by Roy Orbison, despite objections by the Orbison estate.

If the EFF were to lose in the JibJab case, "it would make people a lot more guarded about doing anything that could make someone else mad," said Jonathan Zittrain, co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School. "Especially someone else powerful."

"That would be a pretty dark day for fair use and free speech," von Lohmann said.

Now I'm waiting for the opposing view, which looks at the saintly, progressive songwriter who is being ripped off by evil corporations decades after his death...

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