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People who were of age during the civil rights era and history buffs alike will surely recognize the iconic protest song, “We Shall Overcome.” Folk Singer Joan Baez sang the civil rights anthem during a 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial during a march in Washington. Forty-seven years later in 2010, she sang the anthem for President Obama at a civil rights celebration at the White House.

Martin Luther King Jr. recited the lyrics to the song during his final sermon in Memphis on March 31st 1968, just four days before he was assassinated.

The song goes……..

We shall overcome,
We shall overcome,
We shall overcome, some day.

Oh, deep in my heart,
I do believe
We shall overcome, some day.

We’ll walk hand in hand,
We’ll walk hand in hand,
We’ll walk hand in hand, some day.

Oh, deep in my heart,
I do believe
We shall overcome, some day.

We shall live in peace,
We shall live in peace,
We shall live in peace, some day.

Oh, deep in my heart,
I do believe
We shall overcome, some day.

 We are not afraid,
We are not afraid,
We are not afraid, TODAY

Today this inspirational anthem is back in the news regarding a copyright lawsuit questioning its copyright protection. On Monday, November 21st, a New York federal judge rejected a motion to dismiss the case by the Publisher (The Richmond Organization and Ludlow Music) that has supposedly held the rights since the early 60’s.
The plaintiffs in the case claim that the lyrics in the first verse of the song were copied from a song that was already in the public domain, thus making the copyright registration fraudulent. One of the plaintiffs is Lee Daniels, the producer and director of the 2013 film, “The Butler.” Daniels claims that his production company was asked to pay $100,000 to use the song in their film.
The plaintiffs argue that some of the lyrics of the song were already in circulation way back in 1946 when it was used by striking African-American tobacco workers and that the words and composition were published in a periodical and the authorship was credited to FTA-CIO Workers Highlander Students. Over the years, verses and lyrics were added to the original composition, according to the lawsuit.
U.S. District Court Judge Denise Cote wrote in her opinion, “The Defendants’ arguments to the contrary are unavailing. The Defendants’ argument that the copyright registrations are entitled to a presumption of validity does not compel dismissal of the claims. A certificate of registration does constitute prima facie evidence of the validity of a copyright.”
So now, this case will go forward through the legal system and we will have to wait and see if the plaintiffs are able to overcome the copyright registration held by the defendants.
Until next time, I’m Attorney Francine Ward helping you protect what’s yours. Join my conversation on FacebookTwitter, or in one of my LinkedIn groupsGoogle+ Circles. Feel free to subscribe to my newsletter

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