CTV Wins Music Licensing Deal in Overtime

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A high profile music licensing deal has captured Canadians' attention in the past several days. The story weaves together Canada's national broadcaster, Canada's "national game," and a ubiquitous melodic cultural artifact, and in an era of free music and rampant digital reproduction, has put the business of song licensing on the national stage... or ice.

I'm sure you've heard the gist of this story, but just in case. The writer of the Hockey Night in Canada theme song, Dolores Claman, a Canadian jingle writer who now lives in London, England, retained the ownership and copyright of the song and has licensed it the CBC since 1968. Her and the song's publisher, Copyright Music & Visuals, have been upset with the CBC recently for their alleged use of the song in ways that went beyond the license agreement, and there is an unsettled court battle over this. It seems that when the license came up for renewal this year, the bad blood over the lawsuit hampered negotiations. CBC wanted to get more use from the song, but didn't want to pay the cost of an outright 'all uses in perpetuity' deal.

This is where it gets really interesting. Last Friday, after the CBC announced the that negotiations had broken down and they were no longer pursuing a resolution, CTV stepped in with an offer to pay the big bucks for use in perpetuity of the song. CTV scooped the licensing and will now use the song for their TSN and Olympic hockey broadcasts.

It has been interesting to hear the public discussion around this song, what it means to people, and what people do and do not understand about music licensing. In many cases I've heard comments like "the song is important to Canadians and CBC should pay whatever it's worth to keep it alive." Too bad we didn't always feel so generous about paying creators for their work.

It's also interesting that CTV would step in with their deep corporate profits and believe that they can purchase a piece of Canadian cultural capital, and all the good will and history that goes with it. We'll see how the public feels about the recontextualization of this famous tune.


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