Open Letter to Julia Donaldson

Since 2018 I have been setting the lyrics of children’s books by Julia Donaldson to music and publishing them on my un-monetized YouTube Channel. This started out because I noticed the link between Phil Ochs fabulous setting of Alfred Noyes poem ‘The Highway Man‘ and Julia Donaldson’s book, The Highway Rat.

This type of transformative use of material is usually covered by Fair Use or Fair Dealing copyright laws, depending on the country the copyright is held in.

These videos became very popular, with the Highway Rat video having over 38,000 views when it was removed by Julia’s Publishers (Scholastic and MacMillan).

The first video to be removed, on 11 January 2022, was a song version of Superworm. When I approached the company (Webapio) that had issued the copyright strike, they directed me to Scholastic, who not only confirmed their intent to remove the video, but stated that I had to take down all of my song adaptations of Julia’s work.

It was not until I took down the videos that I started to get messages from distressed parents whose young children were watching these videos daily. As a parent to children on the Autism spectrum, I know how critical a song can be in managing the anxiety of kids (and parents) who live with this condition.

The whole situation left me feeling terrible. I know that authors should, and have a right to, make money from their work. However, in this instance, the works created by me were transformative and were not monetized on YouTube. The Publishers had the option to claim Content ID and generate revenue from the work, but instead went down the path of copyright strikes, putting all of the content on my channel at risk.

I have written the letter below in the hope that Julia Donaldson will eventually see it and maybe re-consider her direction to Publishers around fan-created material that is not being used commercially.

(pdf version of letter attached, Dear Julia Donaldson)

(and sung version here)

29 July 2022

To: Julia Donaldson

c/o
Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck GmbH
Gaensheidestraße 26
70184 Stuttgart
Germany

Dear Julia,

I’m writing this letter to you,
In the hope there is something that you can do,
To stop your publishers from hunting me down,
To cancel the songs that I freely passed around,

I know that the Gruffalo belongs to you,
And the mouse and the snail and super worm to,
Yes the witch and her broom, and the man made of stick,
Are all from your musings, it’s not a fight that I pick.

I never sought profit from the songs that I wrote,
Just a melody stream on which your words could float,
As I know there are children with needs quite unique,
Who respond better to singing, than to things we speak.

Your publishers just like that selfish old rat,
Seek to pillage the highway, and make the world flat,
Filled only by things that they made and control,
Robbing the world of its magic and soul.

Thankyou for listening to the words of a snail,
For I know the world’s so hard to turn, like a whale,
But creations of fans, make the world full and fine,
And the benefits come back to authors in time.

Yours Sincerely,

Daniel Kelly
Yass, New South Wales,
Australia
ozfolklounge 'at' gmail.com

About Daniel Kelly

Daniel Kelly is a singer/songwriter from Yass in Australia.
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