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Tuesday, 12 September 2017 14:55

First verse of ‘We Shall Overcome’ is now in the public domain


This civil rights era anthem has overcome its copyright.

“We Shall Overcome,” the song that defined the civil rights movement, now has its first verse back in the public domain after nearly 60 years.

A Manhattan judge ruled Friday that the first verse of the African-American spiritual, which was copy written by Zilphia Horton, and folk singers Pete Seeger, Guy Carawan and Frank Hamilton in the 1960s wasn’t considered an original derivative of a 1948 version of the song which is in the public domain.

A charity called the We Shall Overcome Foundation filed a lawsuit against the previous owners of the song, music publishers The Richmond Organization and Ludlow Music (TRO-Ludlow) because they couldn’t use the song in a documentary about its origins.

The charity was backed in the suit by Butler Films LLC, the production company behind Lee Daniels’ “The Butler,” which wanted to use the song in the film over four scenes, but couldn’t afford the $100,000 fee for use. The producers downgraded to a 10-second use of the song, for $15,000.

Seeger and the other rights holders, TRO-Ludlow argued, changed the lyrics (from “we will” to “we shall”), so they were the deserving of copyright.

Read more at NYDailyNews

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