Thursday, October 31, 2013

'Wa Tay Snow! Wa Tay Snow! Wa Tay Snow!

A Cebuano songwriter proposed to release a song called 'Wa Tay Snow'.

Imagine this: lyrics written in Cebuano describing the Filipinos' delusion to white Christmas sung to the tune of 'Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!'. It's not only brilliant, it's also comical and an eye-opener. 'Wa Tay Snow' means we do not have snow. The context of the lyrics will tell you of almost every Filipino's obsession to the western practices of Christmas.

I would hear foreigners saying how weird it is to see Christmas trees, mock snow, and all the winter-like decors in December inside the hotels and malls in the Philippines when it's oven hot outside. Imagine that. It's not only funny, but stupid - snow, Christmas tree, Santa Claus, reindeers, and so on. We are trying to be what we are not and I think it's a shameful culture.

And so when I heard the demo, I immediately saw the potential. And I'm sure a lot of people, although they may not admit it, can very much relate to the Filipinos' stupidity of embracing the western practices of Christmas.

But I advised the songwriter to hold the release of the song while I work on the adaptation license to record it. 'Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!' is originally written by Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn under Cahn Music Publishing Co. (ASCAP). After a few more research work, I ended communicating to Warner Music NY and because the Philippines is in Asia, they forwarded me to their Asian head office in Malaysia. This was a year ago. We had a long email discussion and they charged me PhP25,000 to record and use the song.

I think it's a reasonable rate. However, if we are to invest on the license, it has to be recouped somehow and so I asked what percentage of ownership should they share with us on the new musical work. This is their reply (name of the respondent removed):

Hi Ian,

The Cebuano lyric is included in composition. Which mean the original composer & original lyricist will be remain by their own share. (Publishing rights)

Regarding the recording rights, it depend the future new cover artist intend to use which recording version, or their also can do their own recording without pay for recording rights.

Best Regards,

I'm not sure if I understood this accurately but nothing happened and Christmas 2012 eventually ended.

This year, I decided to revisit the project and as I was advised, Universal Records turned out to be the copyright administrator of 'Let It Snow' in the Philippines. I managed to contact them. In our email conversation, they again included Warner Music Asia in the thread. This time they charged me USD20,000 (USD not PHP) and after a very long discussion and attempts to persuade on the ownership issue, this is their final response (name of the respondent removed).

Hi Ian,

Please understand that the rule for adaptation is that you can change the lyrics with prior permission and approval of the owner but that should not diminish or lessen the rights and or the ownership of the intellectual property owner over the song or the musical work, thus owning 100% still to the owner.

In the same way that it doesn't follow that if you create a new lyrics to an existing song, then you already own 50% of the right over the original song because of your creation of the new lyrics. That wouldn't be a fair to the original intellectual property owner.

Hope that above clarifies why we have to charge 100% rights over the song you wish to adapt and cover. In addition, every new version by any performer / interpreter shall be subject to new license and payment.

Note that any adaptation without proper consent by the original owner is subject to legal implications.

Please confirm if you will pursue usage of the song. Thank you.

Best regards,


Though I understand and respect this so-called standard practice, the principle that it promotes actually impedes creative options.

Creative work is made when artists bend rules, not break them. The copyright law on the other hand is authored to protect these creative works. I believe adaptations can be considered new creative works too. If the Batman story is franchised for a movie, I'm sure the franchisee would never invest on the license if he cannot own the rights to the new story. How is that any different to a musical adaptation?

Had they ever heard of the term Creative Commons? It's a similar idea except that it's non-profit.

I wish there was a way to negotiate on the terms with the original publisher for us to release 'Wa Tay Snow'. Apparently, the standard practice permits none. It is sad to note that it is by this practice why the record companies are downsizing globally. I'm simply requesting for a different license to a different story of an existing melody. A unique license in fact because after all, copyright law is supposed to be territorial. The irony is that the music industry, being a key player in the creative industry, turns out to be a close minded institution.

I didn't pursue the license.


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