clever and witty marketing, but is it legal?

Copyright law is a very complex and messy area, so I will tread carefully here. My longsuffering Prof at Karlsruhe University, Thomas Dreier, is one of the world's experts on this, but I don't spend enough time in his company for it to rub off. US copyright law also differs from that over here….(okay enough disclaimer)

I saw this clever, well, briliant piece of advertising , (tip Vinnie)  It is funny and it hits a topical issue really well. I wish we had more of that kind of thing at SAP instead of xys big company runs SAP. Buying software should sometimes involve a little humour. (even German software) We need more stuff from Morsekode.

I wonder though, the cartoon  legal?  No, not from a content point of view, but from a musical copyright point of view.

It made me think back in the mists of time to 2004. It is based the same tune (this land is your land etc) as the famous Jibjab Bush and Kerry parody – lampoon, but unlike that case, this isn't an attempt to parody the fine words of Mr Guthrie. (interesting chap by all accounts)  

The next question is there a valid copyright on the piece, but I'll leave that to a US copyright lawyer to answer, as I can't figure it out.

Of course, it may be that the company behind the advert are paying royalties to Mr Guthrie's estate, or the owner of the copyright, and all is hunky dory.

Seems weird that a song from 1944 isnt obviously in the public domain, but then I'm not a musician (or  a copyright lawyer.)

This brings me to my main point….Law, whether copyright, trademark patent or contract, impacts so much of what we do in the software industry-  It sometimes worries me how little software makers know about law, and how little lawmakers know about software. 

I've blogged before on the issues of copying live data to test systems, here and here but I think there is a need for all software vendors and coders to sometimes pause and think more about the legal implications of what they are doing. Even if it is a simple mashup combining employee data and google maps, or mining SaaS data.  I'll return to this in more detail in a later post, but I need to go and have dinner out with she who must be obeyed. (not the fictional one)

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2 thoughts on “clever and witty marketing, but is it legal?”

  1. That’s an interesting advertisement. I wonder if it will be passed on like they hope. Aside from the legal issues around the music, I had two initial issues:

    1. They say “virtually no risk” – this is risky to say and hard to support. I would question the ethics of that.
    2. They are taking a “get rid of spreadsheets” approach which is a very hard sell. Most of the players in the planning space (not sure about SAP) allow integration with spreadsheets.

    My last question about the advertisement would be whether it is going to be funny to the target audience. Will a CFO find that amusing? I don’t know. . .

    You bring up the importance of legal understanding, and I think you are right. Many of us don’t know enough about that. . .jp

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