“We Shall Overcome” Foundation v. The Richmond Organization, Inc.

On June 14, 2016,  the We Shall Overcome Foundation, a non-profit organization that sought to produce a documentary film about the famous folk song We Shall Overcome, filed a federal class action in New York challenging the copyright claim to the song.  On June 17, 2016, another plaintiff, Butler Films, LLC, which produced the award-winning film The Butler, joined the action.  The two plaintiffs are represented by Wolf Haldenstein partners Mark Rifkin and Randall Newman, who successfully proved that Happy Birthday to You did not belong to Warner/Chappell Music and obtained a federal court declaration that that song is in the public domain.  The plaintiffs allege that We Shall Overcome has been in the public domain since the early part of the 20th century.  They seek a declaration that the defendants, The Richmond Organization and Ludlow Music, do not own We Shall Overcome and that the song is in the public domain.  The plaintiffs also seek damages for everyone who has paid a royalty to the defendants to use the song.

On July 15, 2016, the defendants moved to dismiss the complaint.  You may read the plaintiffs’ opposition to the motion to dismiss here.  The Court has not yet decided the motion to dismiss.

The caption of the case is We Shall Overcome Foundation, et al. v. The Richmond Organization, Inc., et al., C.A. No. 16-cv-02725, and is pending in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.  You may follow significant case developments here.

If you wish to discuss this action or have any questions regarding your rights and interests in this case, please immediately contact Mr. Newman at (212) 545-4640 or Newman@whafh.com and Mr. Rifkin at (212) 545-4762 or Rifkin@whafh.com at Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz LLP.

Wolf Haldenstein has extensive experience in the prosecution of class actions and derivative litigation in state and federal trial and appellate courts across the country. The firm has attorneys in various practice areas; and offices in New York, Chicago and San Diego.  The reputation and expertise of this firm in shareholder and other class litigation has been repeatedly recognized by the courts, which have appointed it to major positions in complex multi-district and consolidated litigation.