I've had a busy few weeks of moving and renovating my home in the middle of a pandemic while also trying to work a full-time. So naturally, I decided to relax by … making a 4-song live EP of protest songs about unions and workers, to raise money for the Massachusetts COVID-19 Relief Fund for essential workers. Today in particular is not only International Worker's Day, but the music site BandCamp is also waiving their fees their day — so 100% of money you send my way for this pay-what-you-want album will go directly to workers in need.
There are worse ways to celebrate May Day, in my humble opinion.
Essential Songs for Essential Workers — Live From Quarantine [Thom Dunn / BandCamp]
Massachusetts COVID-19 Relief Fund
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Woody Guthrie originally wrote "This Land Is Your Land" as a kind of screed against the exploitations of private property ownership. When he submitted the song for copyright, Guthrie allegedly wrote that it was, "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." Although the copyright should have expired in 1973, the actual ownership of the rights has long been contested.
More recently, the lawyers who successfully returned "Happy Birthday" and "We Shall Overcome" into the the Public Domain tried to take a similar approach to win back "This Land Is Your Land" for the people. Unfortunately, it didn't go as well. From The New York Times:
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In the case, a young musical group called Satorii sued the song’s publishers, Ludlow Music and the Richmond Organization, after paying $45.50 for a license to release a cover version of “This Land Is Your Land,” which Guthrie wrote in 1940. In their complaint — filed by the same lawyers behind the “Happy Birthday” and “We Shall Overcome” suits — the group used a detailed timeline of decades-old paperwork and Guthrie’s own hand-decorated songbooks to argue that Guthrie had essentially forfeited his copyright to the song decades ago by failing to renew it properly.
This video hit YouTube in 2009. The song was originally released in 2006 as a bonus track on Jarvis Cocker's first post-Pulp album. More than a decade later, not much has changed. In light of this month's disastrous election results in the UK, a push is on to bring this 13-year old song back to number one, just in time for Christmas.
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