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Chile: Controversial Use of Popular Song in TV Commercial

In Chile, a television advertisement for Almacenes Paris, a large department store chain, that uses the song “Todos Juntos” (All Together) [es] by the popular folk-rock band Los Jaivas without their authorization, is stirring up controversy about intellectual property rights and the extent to which cultural forms of expression are compatible with consumerism.

The ad (video) depicts a large crowd and 3 celebrities singing a karaoke-version of the song in Santiago’s “Plaza de Armas” (Main Square), and invites Chilean consumers to come and “celebrate” the country’s Bicentennial in Almacenes Paris’ stores.

To understand why the controversy began in the first place, it is important to know that Los Jaivas is a musical icon of Chilean folk music with a 47-year career. In the 1970s, their new style, blending traditional Andean folk instruments (panpipes, quena, and charango) with modern rock instruments (in their case: drum set, electric guitar, bass guitar and keyboard), created a new musical genre. The song used by the ad made them well-known in 1972, and calls for unity and tolerance among all humans. Since its release, the song has become an anthem of peace and unity for Chileans and many Latin Americans.

The controversy is taking place at three different levels:

The Use of Musical Patrimony for Commercial Purposes:

The first reactions to the ad surfaced on Twitter shortly after it was aired for the first time. Originally, the debate was centered on the question of whether the band was loyal to its principles by supposedly letting the company use the song for profit. Twitter user Cielito A. (@Cielito81) expressed her disappointment[es]:

Cómo es posible?! que los JAIVAS hayan vendido “todos juntos” un himno generacional a almacenes paris! q pena q tristeza! éste país tah mal.

How is it possible?! that los JAIVAS had sold “todos juntos,” a generational anthem, to almacenes paris! how heartbreaking how sad! this country's doing bad.

User Rodrigo Munoz (@PeterCarcass), a musician, reacted differently:

Los Jaivas se vendieron al Sistema Punto. Yo haria lo mismo si mi banda lucrara lo que ellos lucran, pero NO soy consecuente a mis ppios.

Los Jaivas sold themselves to the System. Period. I would have done the same if my band profited like they profit, but I'm NOT consistent with my principles.

Chilean blogs have discussed the issue more deeply. In a post titled “What if we buy “All Together” at the shopping mall? [es], Roberto Carreño writes:

[E]sta discusión es más que por el prestigio o una guerra entre sistemas […] es la más auténtica defensa de una ciudadania que necesita creer en que no todo tiene un precio, y que también Chile posee un patrimonio que proteger.

[T]his debate is for more than prestige or [due to a] war between systems […] it is the most authentic defense of a citizenry that needs to believe that not everything has a price, and that Chile also has a [cultural] heritage to protect.

Gonzalo Tapia, a university professor and blogger at El Quinto Poder [es] (The Fifth Power) writes:

Hace sólo unos días atrás el rector de la UDP, Carlos Peña (Universidad en la que hago clases), habló en su columna dominical de la nueva ética que se comienza instalar en la esfera pública chilena y, en particular, en la política: el estándar Piñera. Dicho estándar implica que basta con cumplir la ley, da lo mismo la ética […] No puede ser que el sólo hecho de comprar un derecho de autor sirva para hacer lo que una empresa quiera con dicho bien cultural. ¿Cómo los creativos, ejecutivos, product manager, abogados,etc, etc, etc, no se les ocurrió que sería bueno conversar con Los Jaivas y/o sus representantes antes de sacarlo al aire el spot? Lamentablemente, el nuevo estándar comienza operar en este nuevo Chile.

Only a few days ago the director of the UDP [University of the Pacific], Carlos Peña (University where I teach), wrote in his Sunday column of the new ethic that begins to install itself in the Chilean public sphere, particularly, in politics: the Piñera standard. Said standard implies that it is enough with obeying the laws, ethics don't matter […] It cannot be that the mere fact of buying the copyrights allows a company to do whatever it wants with a cultural good. How is it possible that the creative [ones], executives, product managers, lawyers, etc, etc, etc, didn't think that it would be good to speak with Los Jaivas and/or their representatives before airing the commercial? Sadly, the new standard begins to operate in this new Chile.

This comment was made in reference to the conflicts of interest -namely the LAN shares and his ownership of Chilevision (TV station)- of President Piñera. More about the LAN share here.

Intellectual Property Rights:

Jorge Delgado (@Jumbito), journalist and co-host of an anti-establishment TV show called “Difamadores” (Slanderers), sparked the debate in Twitter by making invoice between Almacenes Paris and Warner/Chappel available on Twitpic:

La factura con la que Los Jaivas se vendieron sin su consentimiento… así es la industria musical. http://twitpic.com/1ffadu

The invoice with which Los Jaivas sold themselves without their consent…this is how the music industry is. http://twitpic.com/1ffadu

La factura con la que Los Jaivas se vendieron sin su consenti... on Twitpic

The problem is complex because the band confirmed that they had not authorized Almacenes Paris [es] to use the song for the commercial. The company, in turn, stated [es] that they had indeed paid for the rights to use the song to “the legitimate holder of these,” but also informed that their legal department would ask Warner/Chappel to clarify further on this matter.

In a press conference on Wednesday April 14, the band stated [es] that Warner/Chappel Music was not authorized to sell the rights to others to reproduce the song for commercial purposes. They exempted Almacenes Paris from responsibility because they believed it acted in “good faith,” but they demanded the ad be removed immediately from the air, and gave the company and its ad agency an ultimatum. The ad remained on the air after the ultimatum, and so the band and the legal team of the Chilean Society of Author’s Rights [es] said they would initiate take legal actions against Almacenes Paris and DDB, the ad agency that produced the ad.

A small group of Twitter users advocated for the use of a Creative Commons license instead of Copyright. One of these users was Danilo Canales (@Kangrejo) who said:

y saben qué? lo que le pasa a los jaivas es el ejemplo perfecto de lo dañino del copyright para el autor, bajo (cc) esto no hubiese pasado

and you know what? what is happening to los jaivas is the perfect example of how harmful copyrights are for the author, under (cc) this wouldn't have happened

The Lack of Creativity of the Ad:

The ad was also criticized by bloggers that considered it unoriginal because it closely resembles a T-Mobile ad released in Great Britain last year in which Britons sang along to Hey Jude by the Beatles. In his blog Flashback Personal [es],”Cristián Pinto writes:

Si alguien copia una tesis, simplemente es castigado o reprobado, más aun si alguien copia una investigación, pero si alguien copia descaradamente una campaña de publicidad ¿Qué le pasa?, ¿debe devolver el dinero a la empresa que la contrato? ¿o recibe una amonestación ética de parte de sus pares publicistas del extranjero?

If someone plagiarizes a thesis, [he/she] is simply punished or reproached, especially if someone copies research, but if someone shamelessly plagiarizes an advertising campaign[,] what happens? Must [he/she] return the money to the company that hired [him/her]? Or does [he/she] receive an ethical warning from [his/her] publicist peers abroad?

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