Harry Fox Agency Claims Copyright Over Public Domain Work By Johann Strauss
from the of-course-they-would dept
The Harry Fox Agency (HFA) is the main licensing agency for mechanical licenses (i.e., actual reproductions of recorded works -- which is different from things like ASCAP who handle licenses for performances). While it doesn't get into as many ridiculous copyright scrapes as others, it still has been known to insert itself where it doesn't belong at times. The latest, courtesy of BoingBoing is that HFA made a copyright claim on a YouTube recording of Thailand's Youth Orchestra (Siam Sinfonietta) playing the Radetzky March by Johann Strauss. The work is 164 years old and clearly in the public domain. Furthermore, since HFA only covers mechanical licenses, and this is a new performance, not a use of a recorded song that HFA has rights over, the whole thing is completely ridiculous.
The director of the orchestra, Somtow Sucharitkul, sent a letter to HFA (and posted it to Facebook) expressing his amazement not only that HFA made the initial claim, but that it reinstated the claim after he initially disputed it:
I disputed this claim of course ... and in every case where I have disputed such a claim on youtube of ownership of a work clearly in the publc domain, the claim was released in a few hours.
I am amazed that Harry Fox Agency has reinstated the claim and that youtube now informs me that HFA may sue me or force me off youtube. The claim is patently absurd; Johann Strauss Sr. died in 1849.
Representatives of the Austrian embassy were at the concert from which the clip is taken and as this piece is practically a second Austrian national anthem, I am sure they would have objected to an improper violation against a national treasure.
Several well known music critics and artists have already written to you pointing out the absurdity of this claim as I tweeted a story about it.
I'm sure this will end in some sort of apology, but shouldn't we be concerned that we keep seeing these kinds of things happening? Copyright holders have become quite lax in doing any sort of verification before silencing content creators. It's a huge problem.