from ars technica
A federal judge ruled (PDF) on Friday that the most famous verse of the civil rights anthem “We Shall Overcome” is not copyrighted.
The ruling is a decisive, but still incomplete, win for the two plaintiffs. One of those plaintiffs is a charity group called the “We Shall Overcome Foundation” that’s making a movie about the song, and the other is Butler Films LLC, a company that paid $15,000 to license just several seconds of the song for the movie “Lee Daniels’ The Butler.”
Plaintiff’s attorney Randall Newman hopes the two organizations will represent a class-action case composed of people who were charged royalties for using the song.
The foundation’s website says its film will demonstrate “extraordinary evidence that ‘We Shall Overcome’ was unlawfully misappropriated from the African-American Church and belongs in the public domain.”
Before he filed the lawsuit challenging the “We Shall Overcome” copyright, Newman successfully wiped out the copyright on “Happy Birthday,”putting that song in the public domain and collecting a $14 million settlement from its previous owner, Warner/Chappell.