*The legal fight continues for a group of plaintiffs trying to free from copyright protection “We Shall Overcome,” the unofficial anthem to the Civil Rights Movement.
Once free, the song can be played in films and TV shows without producers having to pay thousands of dollars to a publisher. The defendants in this case are The Richmond Organization and Ludlow Music, which have retained commercial control of “We Shall Overcome” song since copyright registrations were made in the early 1960s.
On Monday, a New York federal judge rejected the publisher’s bid to dismiss, ruling that the plaintiffs have plausibly alleged that lyrics in the first verse of “We Shall Overcome” were copied from material in the public domain and that the publisher has perpetrated fraud on the U.S. Copyright Office, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
The lawsuit was filed in April by the same legal team that got Warner/Chappell to stop claiming that it owned “Happy Birthday to You.” The production company behind “Lee Daniels‘ The Butler” later joined the “We Shall Overcome” lawsuit as a co-plaintiff after being told by the publisher that to use the song as it wished in the film would require a $100,000 payment.
As a result of Monday’s decision, The Richmond Organization and Ludlow Music will need to continue to fight for the song in court. Represented by attorney Paul LiCalsi, they’ve stressed to the public that royalties from the song are earmarked for the Highlander Research and Education Center to support art and research projects in the African-American community as well as the preservation of Civil Rights Movement documents.