• Paper: Progress and Property

    By: Joan Channick, MFA '89. Chair of Theater Management at the Yale School of Drama

    An ironic consequence of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks is that Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America” will generate triple its usual $200,000 in royalties this year because of the song’s numerous public performances. Those royalties will go to Berlin’s favorite charities–the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.

    Originally written for a 1918 revue from which it was cut, the song was revised into its familiar form in 1938, when it became a “peace” song for a world on the brink of war. Two years later, Berlin gave the song’s copyright to a fund established “for the benefit of the youth of America,” the God Bless America Fund. The Fund has given royalties amounting to more than $6 million to New York City Scouts organizations that are using this year’s windfall to help children cope with the effects of Sept. 11. “God Bless America” will be under copyright until 2033, so the royalties will continue to flow for many years.

    This story offers insight into two cultural policy issues: how long artists’ work is protected by copyright, and how the arts are funded in America.

    Progress and Property


    Filed in: Papers and Presentations
    Added on: August 21, 2013