The Hoklo (commonly known as Taiwanese) version of the theme song from the movie adaptation of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables used at a rally in Taiwan has infringed on Warner Music Group’s copyright on the song, the company’s music production arm, Warner-Chappell Production Music, said on Thursday.
The song, titled Do you Hear the People Sing?, was adapted into Hoklo by a doctor at Mackay Memorial Hospital in Hsinchu’s department of psychology, Wu Yi-cheng (吳易澄), and musician Wang Hsi-wen (王希文).
It was used during a mass protest on Aug. 3 by about 200,000 people demanding that the military reveal the truth about the death of an army corporal who allegedly died from abuse while doing his military service. The protesters also called for the government to push for better protection of human rights in the military.
Wu said he had tried to ask Warner/Chappell for the rights to use the song, but did not get a reply.
Kang-khioh Tai-gi Bun-kau Ki-kim-hoe Foundation director-general Chen Feng-hui (陳豐惠) said the foundation helped with the Romanization of Wu’s lyrics.
He added that although the foundation had originally posted the sheet music for the song on its Web site earlier this month, it took it down after only one day, but left the music on the site.
After receiving a telephone call from Warner-Chappell on Thursday warning of copyright infringement, the foundation responded by immediately deleting the file from its servers, Chen said.
The foundation added that, after receiving the warning, it would not continue spreading the song.
The foundation received the legal notice on Friday, Chen said, adding that the foundation and its lawyers would decide on how to respond to the notice.
According to Warner-Chappell’s lawyer in Taiwan, Hsu Tse-yu (徐則鈺), his company was only handing the notification to the foundation on behalf of Alain Boublil Music Ltd, the original publisher of the song in 1980.
Commenting on the issue, a spokesman for Citizen 1985, surnamed Liu (柳), said that Warner-Chappell’s warning was directed at Wu and Wang, and should have nothing to do with Citizen 1985.
Liu added that the group had paid Warner-Chappell for the rights to use the song on Aug. 3, adding that the group had legally been allowed and entitled to play the music that day.
Meanwhile, according to the Intellectual Property Office’s copyright division chief Chang Yu-ying (張玉英), the case can be divided into two parts — the changing of the music and publishing it online.
Under Articles 44 through 65 of the Copyright Act (著作權法), the principle was that though modification of music or lyrics must first be consented to by the original copyright owner, if such consent cannot be obtained, then the modification should be judged by the standard of whether it was “usage within reason,” she said.
As far as altering the music was concerned, since the music was used on the day of the rally, it could be judged under Article 55 of the act that it was used in the public interest and was within the parameters of “usage within reason.”
As for spreading the music online, the matter had to be judged as to whether it was being used for commercial gain or in an attempt to profit from its distribution, Chang said.
She added that it could also be judged as to whether such distribution has violated the copyright by how the distribution has actually impacted the original copyright owner.