Part 3 of the Tea Makers “Copyright is hard. Let’s go shopping!” series

The CBC “hockey-anthem” “challenge” receives extensive coverage in Maclean’s (not onliné). Sarmishta Subramanian, “Settling the Score,” 2008.08.25:

Like some insiders, [Larry LeBlanc] was also put off buy the contract terms…. While it’s increasingly common for private production companies to squeeze a portion of the writer’s royalties, this composer was disappointed to see a public broadcaster apparently do the same….

Moore insists the CBC routinely buys out authors of news themes, for instance, for $50,000 to $70,000 (no royalties), and that the current offer is a pretty good deal. “There’s got to be a guarantee that we’re not in a similar situation as we were with their last theme, where 10 years from now, the composer is holding us up for ransom,” he says.

Yes, he actually said that. (Moore has admitted he’s never even talked to Dolores Claman, so I’m not sure how she was “holding [the CBC] up for ransom.”)

The rules have been vetted with Nettwerk Music Group, which… is helping to run the contest. “They’ve told us these types of rules are fair, and we’ve gone probably an extra nine or 10 yards to make sure that they’re exceedingly fair.”

Nettwerk Records – the label that brought us Moev – is in on this? It turns out this was widely reported, but I never saw it before. In fact, if you upload anything to the contest, you have the option of receiving Nettwerk newsletters.

I asked Terry McBride of Nettwerk – possibly the smartest man in the Canadian music business; he is Oldplay’s manager, among other things – a few questions:

First, exactly what kind of advice did Nettwerk give CBC about the hockey-anthem contract? In particular, what rights (including moral rights) did you recommend CBC acquire in that contract?

What kind of “administration” in Nettwerk doing for the contest, exactly? How much is Nettwerk being paid for any and all of its services?

Should I infer that Nettwerk will be the label releasing any singles, downloads, albums, and the like that derive from this contest? Are there such plans?

And will Nettwerk try to become the actual agents or managers of the winners or finalists?

His answer? “We are A&R consultants only at this time, we have been paid nothing and are simply trying to help out.”

Aaand back to Maclean’s:

Nevertheless, a blog has sprung up, called Hockey Rights in Canada,

It’s just a posting on my personal Weblog (linked here previously).

detailing what its Toronto-based author, Joe Clark, feels are the pitfalls in the rules. Clark, a self-appointed watchdog/advocate on TV closed captions for the deaf…,

Somebody else was going to appoint me? (The phrase is ambiguous, but it’s usually a slight.)

finds the CBC’s stipulation that the winner sign over “moral rights” appalling. When you waive moral rights, he writes, “[t]hey can cut up, mangle, change, or ruin your work at will and there’s not a single thing you can do about it.”

He notes that all five semifinalists waive these rights – even if they don’t win. “I remember telling Dolores many years ago that given the history, she’d have to shoot me before I let her sign a moral-rights waiver to the benefit of the CBC,” says John Ciccone…. [who] suggests that with that waiver, the CBC could also conceivably license the theme out very lucratively – to Home Depot? Molson? Viagra? – with no input from the composers.

LeBlanc also complains that everyone else is getting paid, but he would not be paid if he accepted CBC’s offer to judge the contest.

Does anybody, apart from the entrants, still think this whole thing is a good idea?


  1. Anonymous
    Posted August 20, 2008 at 6:21 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Sarmishta here. The story is up on the Maclean’s Web site now, at http://www.macleans.ca/culture/sports/article.jsp?content=20080813_56681_56681.

    Also, just to clarify, the person cited as being put off by the terms of the contest was a composer who asked that his name not be used, not Larry LeBlanc — though Larry LeBlanc certainly had his concerns about the whole process. (There was a quote from the composer at the end of the preceding paragraph, so the “he” referred back to that. I should perhaps have made it clearer.) You can post this part of my note if you like, or simply note the correct attribution. Thanks.

  2. Anonymous
    Posted August 19, 2008 at 2:28 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Uh, no one waives moral rights to put out an album, that would be silly. And it’s not analogous to the current situation, music licensing for film & television, where the practice is widespread, Moby or no.

  3. Fake Ouimet
    Posted August 18, 2008 at 9:08 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Well, let’s say I was mentioning your spelling.

    A moral-rights waiver would depend on circumstance. Consider Moby, still the test case. I rather doubt he waived moral rights in countries that support them for his record albums. He probably did for jingles.

    In the CBC case, you’re giving them up flatly and across the board. I submit this is a different scenario.

    Further, while that may be the norm in jingles, the typical writer of a jingle is a writer of many jingles and has an income from it that derives from multiple musical works. I’d wager that, for the winner of the CBC contest, this will be their only shot. And they get a hundred grand (not quite a Cadillac), and maybe some royalties. Unless the CBC rewrites the rules beforehand.

  4. Anonymous
    Posted August 18, 2008 at 3:34 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Sorry, but, you’re criticising my spelling? Really?

    My only real point was that waiving “moral rights” is widespread in music contracts of this sort. I have signed them myself. I expect your contracts, since you brought them up, are for writing.

  5. Fake Ouimet
    Posted August 18, 2008 at 2:53 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Barely anyone has criticized (Canadian English uses Z) the contract other than me.

    I have good knowledge of copyright for a layperson; I’ve won a copyright-infringement case; and I have a copyright lawyer. I go back even farther in copyright issues, as you could very easily look up. You don’t have to be Michael Geist to know what you’re talking about.

    If you want to prove me wrong, prove it. If you want to simply state that I’m wrong, please at least be a bit more overt.

  6. Anonymous
    Posted August 18, 2008 at 1:14 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    I’m not sure there’s anything particularly unusual going on here. Except for the whole idea of holding a crap talent show to replace a good, well-known theme. (although, on re-reading, changing terms at will is bullshit of phone-company proportions)

    Many music contracts involve waiving “moral rights”.

    And many music licensing deals involve “cutting up, mangling or changing” music. Seen a Hollywood movie lately? You think when they buy music they leave it all intact, don’t move stuff around, chop out choruses, truncate the end?

    It may be true that many of the submitters don’t know their rights in this matter, akin to early rock and blues artists who would sign away their rights for a new Cadillac.

    But I’m not convinced that people criticising the contracts know that much about it either.

  7. Ernst Kaufmann
    Posted August 18, 2008 at 12:55 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Not reading a contract isn’t a very good idea. However, “CBC reserves the right to change the structure, process, timing, duration or any other aspect of the Competition at its discretion.”

    All it talks about is aspects of the Competition. It doesn’t change any “agreement” between a submitter and the CBC.

    If CBC were providing an essential service (telephone, water, internet) and using such terms, I would have strong reservations. Here, I do not.

    I will post an admission that I was mistaken here if the CBC does, in fact, make modifications to its rules, such that Submitters that should have received a prize do not (or receive a substantially different prize).

  8. Fake Ouimet
    Posted August 18, 2008 at 11:10 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Because there is no reason to think that submitters read the contract and understood it. Besides, surely you noticed that CBC can change the terms of the contract at will. Still think it’s OK for people to “choose” to go along with it?

  9. Ernst Kaufmann
    Posted August 18, 2008 at 6:25 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Is it not for the entrants to decide whether it is a good idea or not? They get to make the decision whether they agree to the conditions under which their entries will be used, and remunerated.

    Why complain that the CBC isn’t paying more (or going to provide royalties) when the submitters seem to perfectly content with that?

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