With glowing heart, I stab at thee

30Sep08

And I thought it was shameful when the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation allowed the licensing to the so-called second national anthem to lapse, thus allowing our public broadcaster’s chief rival to snatch up a piece of Canada’s national heritage. Just look at what our Conservative federal government has done with our first national anthem.

The Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee (VANOC) has borrowed lines from both the French and English versions of “O Canada”, trademarked them, and announced its intent to sue anyone who makes unauthorized commercial use of these mottoes. Soon to adorn official Olympic merchandise — and nothing else, if you know what’s good for you — will be the English phrases “With glowing hearts” and the French “Des plus brillants exploits”. I guess the Inuktitut version wasn’t considered worth plundering.

But not to worry, right? VANOC says it would only challenge the use of the mottoes if a business used them to create a specific, unauthorized commercial association with the 2010 Winter Games. It’s not going to sue or demand royalties from the average Canadian just for singing them.

Of course not. But, you know, it could. It technically could. It’s magnanimous of VANOC to let us use its property, but it does own the trademarks, after all. And this is the same VANOC that has been aggressively suing Vancouver small businesses using the word “Olympic” in their names, even if they were in business decades before the Olympics were awarded to the city.

No, VANOC doesn’t own the anthem itself. It just has a trademark to two lines. But it’s the principle of the thing. Part of our national anthem — the French lyrics of which were written in 1880 and the English version of which followed in 1908 and are thus in the public domain, as they should be — has been sold off to a private interest to be used for its commercial gain. VANOC could have come up with a catchy motto of its own, but instead of exercising any creativity whatsoever, it simply laid legal claim to something that belongs to us all, and our government merrily signed over ownership. That’s no surprise. Our government also recently passed special legislation allowing VANOC to trademark words and phrases relating to the upcoming 2010 Vancouver Winter Games that would ordinarily be considered too general to trademark, such as “2010”, “Vancouver”, “winter”, and “games”.

Well, I’m not going to stand for this.

I mean that literally. I will no longer stand for the playing of “O Canada”, because “O Canada” no longer stands for me. It no longer stands for my Canada. It stands for the destruction for the public domain. It stands for the selling out of our heritage to corporate interests. It stands for our local version of an organization that once represented the highest, the fastest, and the stongest, but now stands for the greediest, the most litigious, and the most corrupt. I won’t feel pride at hearing our anthem, but shame at what’s been allowed to happen to it. Until those trademarks expire or are repealed, it doesn’t mean anything anymore, and I don’t stand up for songs that don’t mean anything, unless it has a good beat and makes me want to get up and boogie. Play it, and I’ll stay seated. Ask me why, and I’ll be glad to tell you.

But I am going to stand up on Tuesday, October 14. I’m going to stand up and cast my vote to elect a government that won’t work to destroy the public domain in Canada or to rewrite copyright and trademark law overwhelmingly in favour of corporate interests. That means a government that won’t work to eradicate the concept of fair use by passing Canadian DMCA-like legislation, which would criminalize a wide range of activities such as copying your newly purchased CD onto your iPod. And it means a government that won’t allow a national outrage such as the sale of our very national anthem to private interests. It means anyone but Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservatives.

It’s our home and native land. Stand on guard. Keep it glorious and, above all, free.



4 Responses to “With glowing heart, I stab at thee”

  1. It must be nice to live in a country that isn’t run by maniacs and idiots. Seems like it would be easier to actually care about what’s going on, instead of just waiting for the ax to drop.

  2. I don’t generally use this term, but I’ll just have to say it: WORD! And also: rock on, Peter Lynn. Rock on.

  3. 3 Kitty

    Wow, what a barnstorming post. I’m proud of you, Pet.


  1. 1 mattblair.ca » Blog Archive » Hey, remember MediaReform.ca?

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