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  • David Bernhart

Washington's Birthday and Intellectual Property 101



Irving Berlin wrote a charming number, "I Can't Tell a Lie," for the Washington's Birthday sequence in his 1942 film musical, "Holiday Inn." Fred Astaire and Marjorie Reynolds minuet while Bing Crosby, jealous of Astaire's attempts to kiss Reynolds during the dance, tries to sabotage them from the harpsichord.


My plan was to share the number here on February 22, this past Friday. I located a clip of "I Can't Tell a Lie," saved it to YouTube and prepared to include a link to the video in this blog post. Within minutes, however, YouTube notified me that visibility of the video was being blocked because it contained copyright-protected material claimed by NBCUniversal, the current owner of "Holiday Inn." I could see the video, but no one else could.


I never intended to violate copyright law. If the owner of an example of intellectual property, such as a movie clip, has determined that the presence of that clip on the Internet would be damaging to the movie's value, I fully support the owner's authority to take action.


Interestingly, though, NBCUniversal does not object to a post containing just the audio of "I Can't Tell a Lie." I present such a post herewith. It isn't the complete experience of sound and sight that I'd envisioned, but I think the charm is undiminished. Close your eyes and imagine Astaire and company in powdered wigs:



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