Composer's widow worried over use of ``Iowa Fight Song''

Sunday, February 11th 2007, 2:26 pm
By: News On 6

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) _ The widow of the man who composed the ``Iowa Fight Song'' wouldn't have approved a parody of the song used in an Iowa Lottery television commercial, her lawyer says.

Meredith Willson's widow, Rosemary, and her lawyers say she still owns the copyright of the song written and introduced by her husband in 1951. He was best known for writing and composing the musical ``The Music Man.''

Tom Camp, a Beverly Hills lawyer who represents Rosemary Willson and Meredith Willson Music, said his client would not have approved the use of the song in the lottery commercial, even if she had been asked, according to a copyright story in the Des Moines Sunday Register.

Camp said he is exploring legal options for what he considers a violation of copyright law by the University of Iowa and the lottery.

``She has approved many commercial uses of Mr. Willson's music, but she would not have approved a parody lyric,'' Camp said. ``She has been incredibly consistent about that for the 20 years I have worked with her on these issues.''

In the television commercial, a Hawkeye fan is featured sitting in Carver-Hawkeye Arena as he plays the lottery instant ticket game Diamond Mine. As he scratches a ticket, the man parodies the fight song with new words as the original song is played.

Mary Neubauer, vice president of external relations for the Iowa Lottery, said the lottery had been contacted by the Meredith Willson Foundation, but hasn't had a chance to review the situation.

University of Iowa officials are looking into the issue, said Mark Abbott, an assistant athletic director.

``If a mistake has been made, it will have to be rectified,'' he said. ``If it is our mistake, we will be the ones to take care of it. Whatever has to be done will be done.''

Other debate centers on the advertising campaign, in which the lottery will give away a Dodge Caliber SXT car customized in Hawkeye colors and logos. Last week, university faculty members urged the athletic department to cut ties with state lottery promotions, arguing the school shouldn't take part in promoting gambling.

Iowa athletic director Gary Barta told The Register last week that he didn't review the commercial before it aired. The athletic department had given the lottery permission to use the song and the school's colors and logos in the commercial, he said.

If there were a a copyright violation, Barta said ``it certainly was accidental.'' He added that Because of the use of the Carver-Hawkeye and the fight song, the commercial, which was reviewed by members of the Hawkeye athletic marketing staff, should have been stopped.

Records show the lottery paid $14,400 to Hawkeye Sports Properties, a division of Learfield Sports Inc., which holds the rights to sell advertising for Hawkeye athletic events and publications.

Neubauer said the lottery was given permission by Learfield to do the ad because it promoted Iowa education as well as Iowa businesses and products. The television commercial is no longer being aired, she said.