Veterans of World War II who sang war songs at a free concert last year have now been told that they must pay fees to copyright holders. A collections society says they are owed money since the veterans sang the songs in public. The controversy has prompted an announcement in Russia’s parliament.
Music played an important part during World War II. It was used to boost the morale of both soldiers and civilians during the conflict and since then war songs have endured, particularly in the hearts of those that survived the fighting.
Although the casualties on all sides during World War II were absolutely horrendous, the losses suffered by the then U.S.S.R were staggering – almost 27 million people lost their lives.
Last September a World War II veterans choir held a concert in Samara, one of Russia’s largest cities. At the free event they sang those songs that helped them through the fighting and have provided them with nostalgia since.
However, the Russian Authors Society (RAS) has now filed a claim with the organizers of the concert. It appears that since the war songs the veterans sang are copyrighted, fees have to be paid to RAS. Understandably the veterans are pretty upset and many simply don’t understand what is happening.
“We sang to convey an educational message to our grandchildren,” said one performer. “And we have to pay for that? Is this not a crime?”
In order for the songs to have been performed legally at the event, a licensing agreement should have been entered into with RAS, something which was not done, says RAS Deputy Director, Oleg Partin.
The controversy prompted an announcement in the lower house of the Russian parliament that the Arts Committee should be convened immediately. Copyright is there to fight piracy, they said, not to fight veterans.
“This is nonsense! It is unacceptable that those who sing the wonderful songs of WWII will have to pay a bribe,” said Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov. “I believe that in this case insanity grows stronger and stronger. Now it has arrived at complete stupidity.”
On May 9th 1945, Russia celebrated the end of the Great Patriotic War. The 65th anniversary of that day arrives in just a few weeks and it now seems that RAS is trying to make amends for the hurt caused earlier. They are suggesting that changes should be made so that singing war songs on that day is a free activity.