Category: National Anthem

Consultation on the Status, Treatment and Use of the National Anthem

Public Consultation Committee Seanad EireannThe Seanad Public Consultation Committee was established “to facilitate direct engagement and consultation between members of the public and Seanad Éireann” (pdf).

It has just undertaken a Consultation on the Status, Treatment and Use of the National Anthem (pdf):

The purpose of this consultation is to invite submissions from interested parties or citizens to consider the most appropriate way the State should treat the National Anthem. This consultation process is being considered in the context of the music and English and Irish lyrics of the National Anthem no longer being in copyright. Legislative proposals have been made to address this issue. Seanad Éireann would like to consult with citizens on their views on this issue.

I have already commented at length on this blog about the issue, so I made a short submission to the Committee in which I referred to those posts, and answered some of the questions posed in the Consultation. In my view, the anthem should be treated with respect and dignity, and there is a good case to be made for legislation to protect it from inappropriate commercialisation. However, I do not think that copyright is a suitable means to this end. Instead, I think that it is a matter for a specialist piece of legislation, specifically directed to the issue. I have drafted a possible Bill (doc), and I attached it to my submission to the Committee, and my answers to the Committee’s questions reflect the drafting choices in the attached Bill.

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Notes on the Irish passport (and the National Anthem, again)

Passport p8 (element) (via TheJournal.ie)No, this post isn’t about the notes on the forms to be filled in to apply for a passport, or even about explanatory notes that might appear on the passport itself.

Instead, it’s a musical post, (about the National Anthem – the most recent in a series, earlier posts are here, here, here, here and here), based on a letter in today’s Irish Times:

Notes on Irish passport


Sir,

In a queue at Dublin Airport last week, my daughter Alex was curious about music notation on successive pages of her passport and asked me to read the music.

To our surprise and delight, it was the music of our National Anthem. Whoever imagined this subtle celebration of Irish musicality should be congratulated.

Yours, etc,

Keith Donald,
Chair of the Irish Music Rights Organisation,
Lower Baggot Street,
Dublin 2.

The image, above left, via TheJournal.ie, shows some of those notes. I saw this letter in the paper version of the Irish Times, and whilst searching online for the letter on the Irish Times site, and for an appropriate image, I also found the following post on the website of Absolute Graphics – a marketing, design and print company based in Bray, Co. Wicklow:

Irish Passport Design


… The challenge was to design a passport that incorporated cutting edge security features while maintaining and reflecting ‘Irishness’ throughout. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade appointed Absolute Graphics (as part of a consortium led by [Security Print Group] DLRS Ltd) to create the new passport from design through to finished product. …

On the design side, we combined the traditional with the contemporary. From the entrance stone at Newgrange to the Aviva Stadium in Lansdowne Road, the design celebrates everything Irish – history, poetry and sport, tradition and modernity. … over 60 different design and security features are employed in the passport.

It’s a prize-winning document, and now another of its many careful design features has charmingly emerged like a Venus from the waves. I join in Keith’s congratulations to Absolute Graphics.

National Anthems and Political Dissent

Obama Hand on Heart for AnthemFor various reasons (set out here, here, here, and here), I have been musing recently about what should and should not be in a National Anthem Bill. In the US, legislation provides that, when the national anthem (since 1931, “The Star-Spangled Banner“) is being played, “persons present should … stand at attention with their right hand over the heart” (emphasis added). Although the photograph left shows Barak Obama doing so as President in 2009, there was a minor controversy during the 2008 election when he neglected to do so at a campaign event. More recently, US gymnastics gold medalist Gabby Douglas apologized in the face of criticism when she neglected to do so during the playing of national anthem at an olympics medal ceremony. Neither Obama nor Douglas meant anything by it. Obama said his grandfather taught him to put his hand on his heart only during the pledge of allegiance, and only to sing during the national anthem. And Douglas was just overcome by the emotion of the moment.

But some people do take advantage of the anthem to make a political point. At the 1968 Olympics, US 200-metre medallists Tommie Smith (gold) and John Carlos (bronze) raised their own gloved hands during the national anthem while looking down as a way of opposing US state-sanctioned racism. In 1996, basketballer Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf of the Denver Nuggets was suspended indefinitely and without pay for declining to stand for the anthem in protest at the treatment of Muslims in the US (though a compromise was soon reached). Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the opposition Labour Party in the UK, and life-long Republican, caused controversy by not singing the national anthem at a commemorative service for WWII veterans, and caused even more controversy when he sang the anthem at a service to mark the Queen’s 90th birthday with one hand in his pocket.

Most recently, American footballer Colin Kaepernick (quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers) refrains from standing to attention with his hand on his heart during the anthem before football games – he began by remaining seated, but now kneels on one knee. It is his way of opposing racism in the US, and in particular protesting at police brutality against people of colour. He is now being joined in his protest by other athletes in many sports. And just last Sunday, 100 people knelt outside the outside the Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina, as the national anthem played before the Carolina Panthers lost at home to the Minnesota Vikings.

Smith and Carlos, Mexico Olympics, 1968In 1968, Smith and Carlos faced significant criticism for their protest (pictured right). Little has changed. So do Kaepernick and his fellow refuseniks now – indeed, their protests are proving very unpopular with fans. But President Obama, who has invited Smith and Carlos to the White House, has defended Kaepernick and those following his lead, saying that they have the right to protest in this way. As Jeffrey Toobin points out in the New Yorker, this right was copper-fastened in “the most eloquent opinion in the history of the [US] Supreme Court”. The opinion is that of Jackson J in West Virginia State Board of Education v Barnette 319 US 624 (1943), and Toobin says that it “stands as perhaps the greatest defense of freedom of expression ever formulated by a [US] Supreme Court Justice”. Allowing for a little hyperbole, Barnette is certainly a major free speech case, and it equally certainly protects Kaepernick’s protest.

Walter Barnett (his name was misspelled by a court clerk), a Jehovah’s Witness, declined to allow his two daughters to recite the pledge of allegiance in a state grade school; the girls were expelled; but the Supreme Court held that the action of a State in making it compulsory for children in the public schools to salute the flag and pledge allegiance violated the free speech protections in the US constitution. (more…)

What should, and should not, be in a National Anthem Bill?

Harp via wikipedia and music notes via pixabayThis is a call for help. I would like suggestions as to what should, and should not, be in a National Anthem Bill – either in the comments below, via the contact form on this blog, by email, on a postcard, or even by means of carrier pigeon (or messenger raven) …

In four recent posts (here, here, here, and here) I’ve been looking at various issues around the national anthem. The context has been Senator Mark Daly‘s National Anthem (Protection of Copyright and Related Rights) (Amendment) (No 2) Bill 2016, but the analysis has ranged much more widely than that. And it has become clear to me that there are lots of gaps in the story of our national anthem. Some of those gaps could be filled by legislation, and so I am trying to work out what that legislation might provide.

I am conscious that, to a man with a hammer, every problem looks like a nail; and to a lawyer, every problem looks like it can be solved with legislation. A hammer isn’t always the solution to DIY problems, and legislation isn’t always the solution to social problems. So, I want to identify not only the issues around the anthem that could admit of a legislative solution, but also the issues where legislation would be unsuitable or ill-advised. Hence my call for suggestions as to what should, and should not, be in a National Anthem Bill.

I agree with Senator Daly that the anthem should be treated with respect and dignity, and that legislation could protect it from inappropriate commercialization, but I do not think that copyright is a suitable means to this end. In a previous post, I commented that if legislation is to be used for this purpose, then it should set out exactly what is protected, what that protection means, and what the standards of protection are. Hence, rather than just criticizing, I would like to be able to offer an alternative solution that respects the national anthem, and protects it from inappropriate commercialization, but without going too far.

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Copyright and the National Anthem – Bonus Links

Bonus, via flickrMy last three posts (here, here, here) have looked at some copyright issues around the national anthem. Their immediate context was Senator Mark Daly‘s National Anthem (Protection of Copyright and Related Rights) (Amendment) (No 2) Bill 2016 (effectively reviving a Bill that he had introduced into the last Seanad earlier in the year). To provide a little lighter reading on the topic, here are 4 sets of bonus links about the copyright, the anthem, or both.

Bonus 1: Alex Marshall (blog | twitter), author of Republic or Death!: Travels in Search of National Anthems (Penguin | Amazon), writing in the Irish Times (h/t Alex’s blog), put “The Soldier’s Song” into the context of other national anthems. It’s a very entertaining piece. While he bemoans the relative obscurity of Peader Kearney and Patrick Heeney, he consigns Liam Ó Rinn to oblivion – he finishes the piece with the first line of “Amhrán na bhFiann”, but he doesn’t name-check Ó Rinn at all!

Bonus 2: I was on the the Marian Finucane show on RTE Radio 1 the Sunday morning before last (listen here), on The Last Word with Matt Cooper on TodayFM the following Monday evening (listen here), and on the Shaun Doherty Show on Highland Radio the following Wednesday morning (listen here until the end of the week). On the latter two shows, it was just the presenter, Senator Daly, and myself, However, on the Marian Finucane show, as Marian was on holiday, the show was hosted by Brendan O’Connor; the others on the panel in the studio were Philip McCabe (Director, MABS), Brian Hayes (Fine Gael MEP for Dublin) and Sinead O’Carroll (News Editor, theJournal.ie); and we were joined on the phone by Senator Daly (listen here). At the end of the discussion on the National Anthem, we were joined by Stuart Clark (Deputy Editor, Hot Press) and writer & journalist Sinéad Gleeson, to discuss the UK’s 60 official biggest selling albums of all the last 60 years (listen here).

The discussion covered not only what makes it on to such a list (greatest hits, recent releases) but what doesn’t (almost any musically influential pop or rock album ever), and some of the copyright stories behind the albums. It seems you can’t have a high-profile song these days without its accompanying copyright suit, whether it’s “Happy Birthday” being held to be out of copyright, to Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams’s “Blurred Lines” being held by a jury to have infringed copyright in Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up”, or Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” being held by a jury not to have infringed copyright in Spirit’s “Taurus”. As to copyright stories from the albums on the list, Number 2 is Abba “Gold – Greatest Hits”, which includes “Chiquitita”, from which Abba shared the copyright and thus royalties with UNICEF. Number 3 is the Beatles’ “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, some of the most lucrative US copyrights in which are owned by Michael Jackson’s estate, as Jackson outbid Paul McCartney in 1985, though McCartney is now working on various means of getting them back.

However, probably the two most famous pop music copyright infringements of all time feature on that top 60. At number 10 is Queen’s “Greatest Hits, Vol 2”, which includes Queen/Bowie’s “Under Pressure”, copyright in which was infringed by Vanilla Ice in “Ice Ice Baby”. The case settled out of court, but Mercury and Bowie now have writing credits on (and therefore get royalties from) “Ice Ice Baby”. At number 18 is the Verve “Urban Hymns”, which includes “Bittersweet Symphony”, which infringed the copyright in the Rolling Stones’ “The Last Time”. Again, the case settled out of court; but the writing credits for “Bittersweet Symphony” are now “Jagger/Richards/Ashcroft”; and all of the royalties go to the music company that owns the rights to “The Last Time”.

Bonus 3: There’s a Trinity connection with the anthem. For many years, the most familiar version was probably the orchestral arrangement used by the national television station, RTÉ, at the close of transmission each day. It was composed in 1961 for the launch of RTÉ’s television service by Brian Boydell (1917-2000), Professor of Music at Trinity; this is the version that was in use from 1961; this is a version that was used during Easter Week 1966; and this was the last closedown version:

Bonus 4: Here’s a 25-minute documentary on the anthem, produced by One Productions for the national Irish language television channel TG4. It is mostly in Irish with English subtitles, though some of the contributions are in English:

Bonus 5: “The Anthem Sprinters” (imdb | YouTube ) is an episode of The Ray Bradbury Theatre (a series than ran on US tv from 1985 to 1992). The episodes were written by science fiction writer Ray Bradbury, and many were based on short stories or novels he had written. “The Anthem Sprinters” is the title piece in a collection of plays based on the his experiences in Ireland while writing the screenplay for the 1956 adaptation of “Moby Dick”. In “The Anthem Sprinters”, an American author on a visit to Dublin stops by a pub where he is caught up in the excitement over a local sporting event known as “anthem sprinting.” In this challenge runners compete to see who can get out of the cinema fastest during the pause between the end of the film and the start of the Irish national anthem.

Enjoy!

Copyright and the National Anthem – preventing a tangled future, avoiding another gap of danger

Wilhelmus, via WikipediaA national anthem is a hymn or song expressing patriotic sentiment, from prayers for a monarch, to allusions to nationally important uprisings, to expressions of national feeling. It is usually recognised by a nation’s government as the official national song, though it often emerges by convention through use by the people. “Kimigayo” is the Japanese national anthem, and its lyrics are the oldest text of a national anthem in the world, dating from an anonymous ninth century poem (though the anthem was not formally legislatively established until 1999). The oldest musical setting of an anthem still in use is the “Wilhelmus“, the Dutch national anthem (an early version of which is pictured above left). It was written between 1568 and 1572 during the Dutch Revolt against Spanish rule; and, although it was the de facto Dutch anthem for almost four centuries thereafter, it was only officially adopted in 1932.

Given their antiquity, there can be no copyright issues with the Japanese or Dutch anthems. The Irish national anthem, on the other hand, is a different story. In my previous two posts (here and here), I sought to unravel the fascinating but tangled story of its copyright, some of which I discussed on the Marian Finucane show on RTE Radio 1 last Sunday morning (listen here) and on The Last Word with Matt Cooper on TodayFM on Monday evening (listen here). The immediate context of those discussions was Senator Mark Daly‘s National Anthem (Protection of Copyright and Related Rights) (Amendment) (No 2) Bill 2016 (effectively reviving a Bill that he had introduced into the last Seanad earlier in the year).

The chorus of “The Solider’s Song” (composed in 1907; words by Peadar Kearney (1883-1942); music by Patrick Heeney (1881-1911)) was formally adopted as the national anthem in 1926. By the end of the 1930s, the chorus of the Irish language translation “Amhrán na bhFiann” (words by Liam Ó Rinn (1886-1943), set to the Heeney’s music) eclipsed the English language version, and has now completely taken over as the national anthem in popular usage, though it seems never to have been formally adopted by the State. In my previous two posts (here and here), I explored the copyright history of all these versions of the anthem. The stories are tangled, but the position is now quite clear. After two deals – in 1933 and 1965 – the State owned the copyright in the music and English language version (“The Soldier’s Song”) of the national anthem, and this copyright persisted until 1 January 2013. If, as seems likely, Ó Rinn was an employee of the State when he composed “Amhrán na bhFiann”, then the State owned copyright in it until 1 January 1974. If, however, Ó Rinn was not an employee of the State at that stage, then his copyright in it will have persisted until 1 January 2014. Hence, all copyrights in the national anthem have now come to an end. Senator Daly’s Bill would revive at least some of them; and, in this post, I want to explain why I think that this is a thoroughly bad idea. (more…)

Copyright and the National Anthem; unravelling a tangled past, avoiding a gap of danger – II – Amhrán na bhFiann

Liam O Rinn small

Liam Ó Rinn
in his Irish Volunteers uniform
(click through for larger image)
Most states have national anthems. Just as states come in all shapes and sizes, so there is a great variety in anthems. Some (such as Spain) have no words at all; others, (in states with multiple national languages, such as South Africa) are multi-lingual.

Given that Article 8 of the Irish Constitution provides that the Irish language is the first official language of the State, and that the English language is recognised as a second official language, it is unsurprising that the national anthem comes in both official languages. However, the story of the emergence of both versions is not straightforward. In my previous post, I discussed “The Soldier’s Song”, the music and English language version of the national anthem. In this post, I want to discuss “Amhrán na bhFiann”, the Irish language version of the anthem. The stories are fascinating but tangled; and, as I said in my previous post, I discussed some of them on the Marian Finucane show on RTE Radio 1 last Sunday morning (listen here). Since then, I was also The Last Word with Matt Cooper on TodayFM yesterday evening (listen here). In both cases, I was discussing Senator Mark Daly‘s National Anthem (Protection of Copyright and Related Rights) (Amendment) Bill 2016 (reviving a Bill that he had introduced into the last Seanad earlier in the year).

By way of background to a detailed discussion of Senator Daly’s Bill in my next post, I discussed in my previous post some of the copyright issues that have arisen relating to the music and English language version of the national anthem. The chorus of “The Soldier’s Song” was adopted as the national anthem in 1926. Following deals in 1933 and 1965, the State owned the copyrights in the music and the English language version of the anthem. These copyrights persisted until 1 January 2013, when they lapsed by effluxion of time in the usual way. However, the English language version quickly lost out to “Amhrán na bhFiann“, the Irish language version of the anthem, which is now almost invariably sung instead, even though there seems to be no government decision formally approving this practice. And the copyright issues relating to “Amhrán na bhFiann” are just as knotty as those relating to “The Soldier’s Song”.

Amhrán na bhFiann” was composed by Liam Ó Rinn (pictured above left) – probably in 1923 – as a fairly free translation of Kearney’s English language text of “The Soldier’s Song”, and the versions in both languages are sung to Heeney’s tune. (more…)

Copyright and the National Anthem; unravelling a tangled past, avoiding a gap of danger – I – The Soldier’s Song

Anthem&Flag, elements via Taoisheach's website
I was on the Marian Finucane show on RTE Radio 1 yesterday morning (listen here), discussing copyright in the National Anthem. The immediate context of the discussion was Senator Mark Daly‘s National Anthem (Protection of Copyright and Related Rights) (Amendment) Bill 2016 (reviving a Bill that he had introduced into the last Seanad earlier in the year). The story of the copyright in the national anthem is a fascinating one, with many legal twists and turns, which I will discuss in this post and the next (update: this post and the next were originally one post; but I have divided that post into two; in this post I discuss the copyright issues around the music and the English language version of the words of the anthem; in the next post, I will discuss the issues around the Irish language version). Once I have brought that story of these various versions of the anthem up to date, I will discuss the possible impact of Senator Daly’s Bill in a further post.

Working together in 1907, the music of the national anthem was composed by Patrick Heeney (1881-1911) and the English lyrics of “The Soldier’s Song” were composed by Peadar Kearney (1883-1942) [His first draft, written on copybook paper, sold at auction in 2006 for €760,000]. The text was first published in 1912; it quickly became a popular marching song among the Irish Volunteers; and it was sung by the rebels in the General Post Office during the 1916 Rising and later in the internment camps. The chorus was formally adopted as the rational anthem in 1926; as Ruth Sherry explains (with added links):

… a simple decision was made by the Executive Council to adopt “The Soldier’s Song” as the national anthem for all purposes. The reasons for choosing this rather than another air are not recorded, but it seems likely that by this point “The Soldier’s Song” had become so firmly established by custom that replacing it would prove difficult, and William Cosgrave is on record as wanting to retain it. The decision was not accompanied by any publicity, and was announced only by means of a brief answer to a backbencher’s question in the Dáil on 20 July 1926.

The Irish language version, “Amhrán na bhFiann“, was composed by Liam Ó Rinn in 1923 as a fairly free translation of Kearney’s English language text of “The Soldier’s Song”. This version gradually eclipsed the English language version; and, from the end of the 1930s, the chorus of “Amhrán na bhFiann” eventually took over completely as the national anthem in popular usage, though it seems never to have been formally adopted by the State. I will return to this version in my next post.

Unlike the flag, the national anthem is not provided for in the Constitution adopted in 1937. (more…)