JibJabbing for Artists’ Rights

JibJab, a small animation site, is running an animation that mocks President Bush and his Democratic challenger Sen. John Kerry. The wildly popular cartoon may be goofy, but the legal wrangling about it is becoming a serious and important test of artists’ fair-use rights in the digital age.
The free This Land Flash-animated cartoon is set to the melody of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land.” With the exception of two lines, all of the lyrics have been changed to mock Bush, the “right-wing nut job,” and Kerry, the “liberal wiener.”
Ludlow Music, which owns Guthrie’s copyright to the song, threatened to sue JibJab Media, which created the animation. But attorneys for JibJab struck first, filing a lawsuit last week in U.S. District Court in Northern California that asks a judge to declare that This Land does not violate copyright.
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.
http://www.wired.com/news/digiwood/0,1412,64469,00.html