Ditch the song…

There is nothing I hate more than being used and I think everyone, from the media, to the bloggers, to the average joe fan, has been used the past few days by the write of the Hockey Night in Canada theme song. It was the day of game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals, the final game of the NHL season, that the owners of the HNIC theme song, Copyright Music & Visual, put out a press release saying that CBC had decided not to renew their license to the song and thus that night would be the last time it will be heard.

The press release tried to make it clear that this was a CBC decision:

“The CBC has been offered a new license on terms that are virtually identical to those that have existed for the past decade (the cost to CBC to use the theme is approximately $500.00 for each game broadcast of Hockey Night in Canada). However, the CBC has chosen to move in a new direction.”

But was it? We now find out that the CBC is being sued for a ridiculous $2.5 million because they used the song in ways there were not licensed to do so. If CBC did use the song in ways they shouldn’t have they should pay up, but it seems pretty clear that the sum of $2.5 million is outright ludicrous. CBC is accused of using the song in “commercials for Hockey Night in Canada, an advertisement for Ford Motor Co. and broadcasts including the 2004 World Cup of Hockey, curling competitions, the Royal Canadian Air Farce, a Guy Lafleur tribute, and a Rick Mercer special.” So lets say the CBC used it 50 times more than they should have. At $500 a shot, that would only amount to $25,000. So at $2.5 million the lawsuit seems downright ridiculous at best and I don’t blame CBC one iota for not wanting to deal with such a greedy and overzealous group of people.

As for myself, I feel used. I was first outraged that the CBC would just ditch the theme song either to save a few bucks or to rebrand a Canadian television staple just for the sake of rebranding it. But I now feel used because it seems clear to me that it was the goal of Copyright Music & Visuals to create this fan outrage and to force CBC’s back to the negotiation table and to negotiate not only a new license agreement but a settlement to their ridiculous $2.5 million lawsuit. I hate being used and because of that I have decided to support CBC in ditching the song and going in a new direction. I hope the owners of the song never make another penny off of it. CBC and HNIC made this song what it is and made the creators of the song a whole boatload of money and if the creators of the song choose to bite the hand that feeds them then I can only hope they they never get fed again. It’s time for CBC and everyone else to ditch the song and its greedy overzealous owners.

This article has 13 Comments

  1. $2.5m isn’t really off the mark if you do the math. Stretched over 4 years, that’s 625k/year. That’s 1250 times the song is “misused” over the course of the year. It’s not completely off the charts.

    If CBC wants to preserve their tradition and the HNIC song that has become akin to O Canada, they should be REALLY fighting to settle (which they still are) or fork over $2.5m, which I think is chump change for such a big corporation. There is no price tag for sentimental value, and if it ONLY costs a measly $2.5m in exchange to continue a tradition of 40+ years… why the heck not?

  2. Also, the CBC/HNIC isn’t quite the “golden boy” of corporations, as they’ve had their history of disputes. If I remember correctly, weren’t they going to drop Ron MacLean and Don Cherry a couple of years ago?

  3. So what you are saying is that CBC wrongfully used the song an average of 3 1/2 times per day including weekends and holidays? I don’t buy it. Even if they used it to start every 6:00 newscast, every ‘The National” and that Rick Mercer episode was televised nationally every day they still might fall short.

    As for MacLean/Cherry, I am not sure that is a comparable. That was purely about money and I don’t recall Cherry or MacLean issuing press releases to try to garner fan support against the CBC. Fact is, most Canadians might prefer the CBC not spend $700,000 or more on Don Cherry for 10 or so minutes of air time a week plus playoffs.

  4. It’s not inconceivable that in a single 2004 World Cup telecast would use the song up to 10 times . I don’t know about the details about what part or melody of the song were used, but even if something as minute as using a string of three-notes counts as “mis-use,” then yes, it’s highly possible that they used it more than 3 1/2 times a day.

    I think this is comparable to MacLean/Cherry because that was about money, and so is this. It involves a corporation that has revenues of over $1 billion annually against the people. CMV is not a household name like MacLean or Cherry, so I don’t really blame them for taking this to the media – it’s a great legal tactic that has been done countless times when trying to fight a big corporation.

  5. It’s not inconceivable that in a single 2004 World Cup telecast would use the song up to 10 times

    Ok, so 10 times on 8 broadcasts equals 80 disallowed broadcasts. Where do the other 1170 misused broadcasts come from in 2004?

    Of course it is just about money. Most everything is just about money. But unlike Ron and Don, it isn’t just about their demands on a new contract, it is about an ongoing lawsuit. If the CBC thought that the lawsuit had a basis then they would pay it but clearly they don’t since there is no settlement and they are headed for court. Obviously CBC thinks it owes something measurably less than $2.5 million if anything at all.

    On the flip side we have Copyright Music & Visuals who thinks they are owed $2.5 million. They want to collect that $2.5 million and it is my belief that they are attempting to link that lawsuit with a new license agreement. I believe CBC didn’t want to play that game, didn’t want to settle at the amount Copyright Music & Visuals requested, and decided to call their bluff and not renew their agreement at this time. I believe Copyright Music & Visuals retaliated by attempting to generate public support against CBC to help their cause by issuing the press release they did at the time they did it.

    Now all this is fair game in the world of corporate wheelings and dealings but I also believe that if Copyright Music & Visuals really truly thought they had a $2.5 million case in the court of law they wouldn’t have to play these games and wouldn’t need to leverage public support to get what they want. So it is my believe that Copyright Music & Visuals is just trying to be greedy and gouge CBC for whatever they can get and are willing to use you, me, the fans, the media, and anyone else they can to achieve that goal. I don’t like it and so I say, ditch the song. I am sure there are hundreds if not thousands of people that will create a new song for next to nothing.

  6. You’re exactly right that the $2.5 million is a legal tactic. But the sum isn’t necessarily ridiculous as a starting figure in a lawsuit. I’m no lawyer, but I observe that lawsuits frequently claim a sum much greater than what the reasonable settlement ends up being.

    Part of the point is that, if CBC is using the song without permission, who’s to say that Dolores Claman / CMV wouldn’t have charged them $2.5 million for the extra use? Not that that’s likely — but it is a valid legal argument. CBC didn’t give them the chance to negotiate the extra rights.

    And give poor Dolores Claman a break. The CBC used her greatest hit *free* for 25 years before they started paying royalties. She may be greedy, but nowhere near as greedy as the freeloading CBC.

    Part of the problem is, that the song only has value because of HNIC. So it’s really the CBC who has the strong position in the long run. Claman & company are simply trying to bolster a weak position to win more concessions by going public.

    Given that, I’d be surprised if the song isn’t back on CBC by the fall. Claman will have a choice between a big (but not huge) stack of money and no money at all — and she’ll take the money.

    BTW, $500 per game isn’t a lot. Count up 30 weeks at 2 games each, plus extras, plus 8 playoff series * 6 games each, gives around 110 games a year. $55,000/yr isn’t much to live on in London, England (where Claman lives). And no doubt CMV gets a good chunk of that in agency fees.

  7. And might I add that the CBC probably gets hundreds of thousands of dollars in added value because of that theme song over the course of a season. So $55,000 may in fact be a pittance — especially if the CBC is willing to pay $100K for a new theme song that couldn’t possibly be as successful as the old one.

  8. I agree, $55,000 or whatever isn’t a lot and that is why it isn’t about the money, it is about the lawsuit. I just want to point out that we shouldn’t blame CBC for this decision, we should blame Claman and Copyright Music & Visuals. They are the ones that seem to be linking a new license agreement with a settlement of the lawsuit.

    Also, yes, ridiculous lawsuits are made all the time and they get settled for more reasonable amounts. It’s like negotiating a contract. But if the two sides can’t find that middle ground they will go to court. Claman and Copyright Music & Visuals are using us all as pawns to get CBC to bend more while making it sound like it was a CBC decision to not pick up the song for next season. I don’t like being used so ditch the song.

  9. Ok, so 10 times on 8 broadcasts equals 80 disallowed broadcasts. Where do the other 1170 misused broadcasts come from in 2004?

    That’s only one instance. There’s been 3 or more other broadcasts that have been named in the lawsuit. Like I said, even if it’s something as trivial as using the same three-note key, it’s not totally inconceivable. A ton of music is played on TV, and 3.5 times a day isn’t really that much.

    If the lawsuit has been going on for 4 years, why didn’t Claman and CMV go to the media earlier? The fact that they waited 4 years shows that they were willing to re-negotiate, but because CBC refused to budge on a paltry $2.5m, they took it to the media. If they settle, it won’t be for $2.5m (as CBC is adamant they won’t budge for that amount), but in settlements it is commonplace to shoot for a high benchmark first and then work your way down.

    This kind of stuff happens everyday in America, which is why there are so many lawyers on the market. When settlements can’t be made with money, obviously the next course of action is a lawsuit.

  10. If the lawsuit has been going on for 4 years, why didn’t Claman and CMV go to the media earlier?

    The lawsuit has been public knowledge for a long time but you can’t go to the media in 2006 and say “CBC hasn’t renewed the license agreement for 2008-09 season yet” because there would be no outcry over it. The timing didn’t work until now when they could say “CBC has chosen to go a different direction”. We are at the eleventh hour and they are pulling out all the negotiation tactics they can.

    “This kind of stuff happens everyday in America, which is why there are so many lawyers on the market.”

    Sure, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

  11. I’m sorry but 55000 per year isnt enough? its not like this claman person contributed anything to better humanity. she wrote a 1 minute theme song for a once a week hockey broadcast. HNIC has become tradition, yes, but canadians tune in to watch hockey games not listen to a song.

    CMV are just being greedy a holes. People will not watch less HNIC because the theme song is different. i really hate the CBC but i hope in this case it ditches the theme song. who are they to demand all this money?

  12. OK Daniel, what are you doing to better humanity? Are you worth $55K a year? Who are you (with apparently no clue how the music business works) to set the fee?

    Are the hockey players doing something for humanity to justify their outrageous salaries?

    Why are CMV greedy for asking for top dollar for their product?

    Just like an athlete’s “work”, a piece of music is worth what someone will pay for it. If it wasn’t worth it, no one would’ve paid it.

    Sports fans need to get a clue about how intellectual property works in the entertainment industry before they shoot off their mouths.

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