Country Joe Sued For Stealing Protest Song
Country Joe and the Fish's Joe McDonald is being sued for allegedly stealing the tune of his 1965 protest song "I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-to-Die-Rag" from a 1926 song by famed jazz trombonist Kid Ory. OrCountry Joe and the Fish's Joe McDonald is being sued for allegedly stealing the tune of his 1965 protest song "I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-to-Die-Rag" from a 1926 song by famed jazz trombonist Kid Ory. Ory's daughter, Babette Ory, filed the lawsuit last month in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. She claims McDonald stole the tune to her father's "Muskrat Ramble" and argues that McDonald's infringement was intentional.
According to the lawsuit, Ory told McDonald in July that his song infringed on her father's copyright, but he continued to perform it. Under copyright law, she may seek damages for performances of the song only in the past three years and for any performances since its filing.
"Damage for intentional infringement can be up to $150,000 for every time the song has been performed over the past three years," Ory's lawyer, Neville Johnson, told the Los Angeles Times. "McDonald released it on a record, sang it on a TV series, 'Tales of the City' -- it's hard to tell how much that will amount to. His song is an American classic, it's just too bad that it infringed on another one."
The lawsuit asks for unspecified damages and an order barring McDonald from performing the song. It comes just at the time when the recording may be gaining new popularity because of the military action in Afghanistan. The 59-year-old McDonald, head of one of the leading psychedelic political bands of the 1960s and a solo artist since 1970, conceded that he's been a fan of Kid Ory but denied he copped the tune.
Writing on his official Web site, McDonald says, "Since I have been warned that singing the song in public will subject me to a $150,000 dollar fine I shall not sing the song anymore. Sorry about that, fans, but even though I get paid fabulously for my performances my fees are a bit less than $150,000 dollars a show ... so you can see how if I kept that up how soon I would be quite farther in debt than I am now."
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