Warner Music is accused of fining Covid hospitals

Warner Music is accused of fining Covid hospitals


norman lebrecht

February 18, 2021

From the Süddeutsche Zeitung:

The song “Jerusalema” has been a source of solace in the pandemic; thousands of nurses, police officers or school children danced to it and posted the videos online. But now they are suddenly being hit with bills….

Many hospitals, fire brigades and police stations did not have in mind that licence fees could be incurred. In the past few weeks, they have received mail from Warner Music… Some letters are said to have demanded four-digit amounts…

Read on here.

Anyone from Warner care to respond?


  • Sam McElroy says:

    “..hit with bills…” “…did not have in mind…”
    Ignorance is not a defence in law. Are musicians supposed to just give up entirely, and relinquish every last drop of passive income because music “gives solace”? Of course music has an emotional effect, that’s why musicians do what they do. And it happens to be very expensive to create and distribute that solace! There is no more logic to the ’emotional sustenance’ argument in favour of free music consumption than to a ‘nutritional substance’ argument in favour of free food. As it is, musical careers and musicians’ livelihoods are being wiped out by this pandemic, and still they give away freebe after freebe in solidarity with a suffering world. Musicians have been overwhelmingly generous and sensitive throughout. Let them at least collect their meagre little license fees. Warner has nothing to respond to.

    • La plus belle voix says:

      Interesting comment. But I wonder, even if the copyright issue is clear, whether there might be some kind of a moral issue involved here. Perhaps a soupçon of empathy would be the order of the day and the music rights equivalent of a cease and desist order (a warning in plain English) would have been appropriate. It would be interesting to learn what Master KG, who holds the IP, feels about this. If I were a composer, and doctors and nurses treating COVID-19 patients unwittingly infringed copyright law and caused their employers financial loss, I would not sleep at night. Ignorance is not bliss of course, I’m only asking for reasoned debate.

    • Curvy Honk Glove says:

      Here, here and a double HUZZAH!! How dare they! Who do these people think they are?! Finding comfort and solace in the collective expression of both hope and grief through music? Fines will never be enough for the damage they’ve caused. We must collect names and make a list so they may never be allowed to experience music again, either within the concert hall or without. They must be properly informed and reeducated (maybe in sleep-away camps) that music is for musicians alone!

      • CV says:

        Let me know if you’re able to extend your sarcasm and ideology:
        Do we pay to funeral homes while mourning? What is a coast of death to buried a loved ones?

        • Curvy Honk Glove says:

          Sarcasm? No, you’re absolutely correct. These unwashed plebeians steal our life’s work and take it for themselves with no recourse whatsoever – grifters and thieves, the lot of them! They likely voted for tRump. It sounds like the kind of reckless usury in which they would indulge. They owe us musicians tribute, and when paid in full, we’ll allow them access to our art.

  • bruno michel says:

    I am going to run the risk of sounding horribly callous here, and God knows how much I have respect for the millions of carers in the world who have been putting their lives on the line to save ours (they are probably the only segment of the population who really seems to care about covid), but I am sorry to say that we are all facing harsh realities. As another comment above makes it clear, artists, who have been facing catastrophic loss of income, need whatever they can get from recording licence fees and royalties. And recording companies (whom it has always been fashionable to accuse of all evils on earth, or at least in our business) have to make a living too, as they have overheads and employees to pay, and anyone who knows anything of our business will know that recording companies are earning very little and forever less money on classical music, and that this little money is made on royalties and licence fees. This is what they live on. While it would be great to think that they could, out of the goodness of their hearts, donate these royalties to these health institutions, you know full well that if they do so today, even saying that this is exceptional and a one-off, then tomorrow, they will have 2000 requests from everywhere in the world (charities, companies in dire difficulties, individuals likewise, etc) and from every walk of life asking for the same, and everyone will claim that they have a good reason to air and use music royalties-free, especially in this day and age. And everybody will be up in arms because Warner will have given the royalties for free to health institutions and not them… Can we try and not judge Warner and others without taking into account the realities of the world?

    • CV says:

      Medical professionals are doing their work for saving lives, that’s what they was trained to do. Why is it such a consideration of heroic practices. If musicians would be allowed to their professional practices, lots of their lives will be saved. We can sève lives not only by medical interventions. Fears doesn’t not protect from the death, yet from enjoyment of the life.

    • La plus belle voix says:

      The legal situation is a little more complicated than at first glance. The third party exploitation (i.e. use) of DJ Master KG’s title is clearly governed by copyright. Most people will understand the role of the GEMA (Society for Musical Performing and Mechanical Reproduction Rights) here. But for another video that uses his IP things change. If, for example, a fire brigade station wanted to combine the “Jerusalema” song with moving images they had shot themselves, that would not be covered by the GEMA, as this only covers playing the song in public, i.e. on the radio, in a restaurant or, e.g. at a fire brigade party. Thus, if the title is used in a video other than the original made for/by DJ Master KG, this constitutes ‘other’ use, for which a different licence is required, namely the so-called synchronisation (aka dubbing) licence. So no wonder the nurses and doctors had no idea. A hospital would normally hold a regular GEMA music license in all probability, not a sync one.

  • Dragonetti says:

    Two separate considerations here. Firstly I’m sure that whenever ‘Jerusalem’ is performed in a concert setting then the appropriate fees will always be payed. However Sir Hubert unwittingly wrote a piece which somehow entered the national consciousness as one of those pieces which are just sung on various occasions. It’s like ‘Happy Birthday’ really. Good luck if you want to collect the royalties on that!
    Surely Warner and the Parry estate are big enough not to carry this through? If nothing else the adverse publicity will be damaging to both.

    • Gazza says:

      I’m pretty sure that Parry’s Jerusalem is public domain so free to play. The song in question is, I assume, different.

      • La plus belle voix says:

        Parry died in 1918 and his music is now out of copyright. Jerusalem came into the public domain in 1969.

  • Jim Flannigan says:

    What happened to the Omar story about an alleged ethnic tokenism by Guildhall? Did you take it down Norman? Why? Did they pressure you into taking it down? This is terrible, cancel culture is really getting to everything. Nothing is left for dialogue.

  • Gerald Martin says:

    Maybe they can sing, “Happy Birthday” instead.

  • Lausitzer says:

    Warner spokespersons already cared to comment:

    In short: In Warner’s opinion it are image videos what the organizations that received invoices have posted. Does not appear to be a completely unreasonable view, and some organizations had properly licenced the music in advance.

    Not everyone finds solace in PR of authorities, health companies and so on.

    • La plus belle voix says:

      Legally there is no way to challenge Warner’s position. Morally, the company should perhaps differentiate between a video made privately by medics tripping the light fantastic out on the streets, and one that was made by an actual organisation like a convent and which features a bunch of nuns (if that is the right collective noun) prancing around in front of the altar.

      • Stephen McElroy says:

        I’m sure we share the same general sense of goodwill to our fellow man, but I take issue with the use of the word “moral” in this context. Musicians are overwhelmingly empathetic in their generous gifting of free content, especially during this pandemic. In our case, we have recorded hours of free content in a home studio built with our own resources. But we must fight the general presumption that, because the content we produce makes people feel good, we should not only invest to produce it but relinquish all expectation of making any return on our investment. I have executive produced two orchestral albums with a high profile artist and I have spreadsheets of the staggering costs. We produce this music in order to move people, so it is illogical to impose a moral imperative on us to forego royalties because people are moved. Where does it stop? I have the deepest admiration for the heroic medical profession, Covid or otherwise, but at least they are receiving compensation for their work – a sector which, by definition, can never dry up. Musicians are in dire need of any income they can scrape together, including the pitiful scraps of passive income that remain in today’s self-sabotaging world of streaming. There is nothing immoral or unempathetic whatsoever about claiming those scraps. If empathy is the yardstick, where to the exemptions stop? I certainly don’t see musicians being offered free Covid tests as they navigate the complexities of border crossings. No, we all contribute our talents to the pot, whatever the profession, and nobody should work for free. To be asked to do so is immoral and unempathetic, as is the misappropriation – knowing or otherwise – of intellectual property, whatever the usage. It’s our only sellable asset!

        • La plus belle voix says:

          Well argued points. I’d only take issue with your claim that I suggested there should be a moral obligation on musicians, who should “forego royalties because people are moved”. My plea was for a generosity of spirit in the pandemic, when any transgression of the law was so patently not intended, not a carte blanche that would somehow, in the sense of the original categorical imperative, lift proscribed creative activities. Sorry to wax Kantian.