Canucks and Beyond

Because Canadians are Insane...

06/06/2008 at 5:09pm EDT

The PR war between the composer of the HNIC anthem and the CBC is no longer just a negotiation for the hearts and minds of Canadians in a panic about losing their favorite Saturday night pop-song.

Nope. Now it’s a political matter.

From the opposition Liberal Party’s own press release:

Conservative Heritage Minister Josée Verner must stand up for one of Canada’s most famous musical traditions and do what she can to ensure the CBC keeps the Hockey Night in Canada musical theme, Liberal Heritage Critic Denis Coderre said today.

“The Hockey Night in Canada theme is a part of Canada’s culture that goes beyond sport,” said M. Coderre. “This is a great opportunity for the Heritage Minister to finally get off the bench by defending an important Canadian tradition.”

But before I make too much fun of the Liberal Party, I’ll point out that Denis Coderre’s wish already came to fruition yesterday… at least the level of provincial politics. In Alberta, Conservative Premier Ed Stelmach already tackled this critical, national issue…

From CBC:

Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach is also upset about the possibility of losing the song, telling reporters at the legislature on Thursday he was stunned by the initial reports.

Moore said the potential loss of the song would not damage the HNIC brand.

“The brand is Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday nights,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of great things on that show and we’re very proud of it.

“We’ve got a great theme song. We’ve got great commentators. We’ve got Don Cherry. We’ve got tremendous production teams, but no part of that brand is bigger than the whole brand.

“We’d like to keep as much of it intact but if we can’t do a responsible and reasonable deal that’s good for both sides, change happens.”


Look: I love HNIC more than my own kid, but these people are insane.*

It’s a song and it’s a negotiation. And the lawsuit is not new—the issue has been in litigation between the theme’s composer Dolores Claman and CBC since 2004. The only thing that’s new right now is that the licensing agreement has run out, and CBC and Ms. Claman are negotiating the terms. Claman’s camp just happens to be doing a better job running the public relations of this whole thing, releasing news to the press as she has.

Sleezy? Maybe. She’s got that lawsuit to sell, after all. But hey—it’s her song. They want to use it, that’s the way it works. (And CBC shouldn’t be slammed for their actions either; they also have every right to walk away from this deal.)

But in Claman’s defense, I would like to point out one thing that was part of the original press release yesterday:

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 for each game broadcast of Hockey Night in Canada).

Assuming that’s true, and the new deal is in that financial ballpark, Claman isn’t screwing anybody; that’s not an unreasonable deal. And odds are that CBC is fine with those numbers as well.

I would speculate, however, that CBC is refusing to sign a new deal thus far based on other factors which will ultimately reflect on that lawsuit. Such as: What—in the digital age—constitutes a “broadcast”?

CBC’s streaming and archives online allow them to re-broadcast their original show repeatedly, not to mention, use the song in association with various other HNIC productions. Standard copyright licensing in the past never took this issue into account, but it’s a big one nowadays. This is an issue that’s come up across the entire media world in recent years between copyright users and holders , and would hardly be a unique argument to the CBC or Ms. Claman.

Anyway, that’s just personal speculation and one of many issues that might be causing problems. Regardless, my guess is that both sides will eventually work it out; and if not, then hell… we have options.

Meanwhile, let’s just hope the Federal Government of Canada doesn’t have a collective meltdown in the swamp of their stupidity.

*I don’t actually have a kid. Please don’t bother contacting Child Welfare.

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