Geist to blame for loss of HNIC theme? What?

This weekend's blog entry on by Christopher Moore comments on the recent cancellation of the Hockey Night In Canada theme song by CBC. Unfortunately it puts so much political spin into the issue as to make even the likes of David Frum dizzy.

No serious person on any side of the copyright debate has ever argued, or ever will argue, that creators are not "entitled to be paid in proportion to the value of the work they provide" Though frequently Chris and others on the maximalist side of the copyright debate try to paint their objectors with this brush. As he does here.

Unfortunately Chris, not unexpectedly, gets this issue of what is due artists completely backwards. As Chris would have it, the artists, or song writer in this case, would set their price and the CBC or anyone else who wanted it, would dutifully pay it. Trying to negotiate less, or wanting a wider breadth of licence from what is being offered, is, in Chris's eyes an attempt to rip off the artist. In a free market, and especially when dealing with non-necessities, the value of an object, whether a commodity item or completely unique, tangible or intangible, is never set by the seller alone. It is also determined by the buyer and what the buyer is willing to pay. No one should be compelled to buy something, much less compelled to buy something at a price they have no control over. The CBC was not subscribing to any "dubious new ideology that creative work should be freely (freely as in unpaidly) available". They were offering what they thought was reasonable value. That neither the CBC nor the song writer were able to come to an agreement was as much the song writer's fault as it was the CBC. And it most certainly had nothing to do with Michael Geist.

That Chris would call Michael's arguments anti-copyright, or that he would argue the CBC are copyright abolitionists, frankly speaks more about his extreme and blinkered ideology then that of whom he is arguing against.

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Chris is anti-copyright

Ironically, while Christopher Moore has expressed policy opinions that would radically reduce copyright for all creators (IE: such as his support for the CCC proposal for compulsory licensing for all creativity), Michael Geist has not. Unfortunately politicians have thus far been listening to the nonsense arguments of people like Chris, rather than the well reasoned and balanced proposals from Geist.

It may come down to an ideology which people like Chris possibly being opposed to free market capitalism itself.

Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) consultant.

Audience Value

If Mr. Moore wants to open up the question of the value of the song, he may be in for a surprise. The composer is only one contributor to the value of the Hockey Night in Canada theme. Much of that value has been contributed by the audience and CBC. Over decades of tradition the theme has become inseparable from a sport people love and the events of their lives. It has increased in value constantly since it was first played. This value requires it to be linked to Hockey Night in Canada. Imagine: if the song were licensed to any other sport (baseball, football, the NBA) then nearly all that value built up by the fans would be lost. Similarly, if CBC does decide on a new theme, its initial value will be far less than it will be after years of playing - indeed that is the position this theme was presumably once in.

Mind you, I'm not criticizing the composer or suggesting she doesn't deserve what she's asking. Just as the CBC can only go to her for the song, there's not much point in her shopping around either. The negotiation is about as fair as it could be. (Price is not always a reflection of value, and in this case the increase in value is unlikely to be accurately reflected by an increase in price.)

A broader problem with copyright is that the situation is seldom so fair. The audience contributes to the value of all successful works, but because it consists of many uncoordinated individuals they are in an unequal bargaining position relative to the copyright holder. Perhaps Mr. Moore thinks this particular negotiation is unfair because is accustomed to situations in which their is a monopoly supplier but not a monopoly audience.

Monopoly suppliers

Mr. Moore is on the Board of Directors for Access Copyright, an administrative body for a single business model alternative for creators that acts as a legalized monopoly supplier when negotiating prices. The only countering force is the Copyright Board, which is largely under regulatory capture by collective societies.

Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) consultant.


Well. I was mistaken. She licensed to CTV. Though I must agree with the guy from CBC who "was surprised a rival network would purchase something so inextricably linked to the Hockey Night brand."