The Battle Never Ends

Because, of course, the distinctions between “shall” and “will” are a prima facie demonstration of copyrightable innovation: ‘We Shall Overcome’ Copyright Case Moves Closer to Trial

Along with the recent suits involving “Happy Birthday to You” and Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land,” the case has focused attention on one of the central questions in copyright: finding a balance between protecting intellectual property on behalf of private owners, and giving the public access to famous songs whose origins may be murky.

For “We Shall Overcome” and “This Land,” the issue is also freighted with politics at a time when the songs are being embraced by protesters and activists on multiple sides of major issues.

…The suit also argues that the version of the song registered for copyright in 1960 and 1963, by Pete Seeger and others, includes only minor alterations that are not enough to justify a copyrightable variation, like changing the line “We will overcome” to “We shall overcome.”