I wrote this some months ago, but didn't post it for some reason, so I am doing so now.

In July last year, the Seanad issued a report on what to do regarding "protecting" the national anthem. The newspaper reports are here ("Committee calls for national anthem guidelines and formal Irish sign language version"), and here ("Families disappointed Amhrán na bhFiann will not be protected by law") 1, including mention of how some politicians want to put the country's national anthem back into copyright2.

I agree that symbols of the state are important, and should be respected. The thing is, respect can't be mandated by legislation. Respect is earned. It's that simple. If a country has to pass a law to make it feel it's getting respect, then that's not the problem the country has. The problem is that the country can't think of any other way to get it.

A country that thinks it can get respect by passing a law deserves contempt.

On the other hand, if a country wants to make a fool of itself this way (and many have!), it souldn't use copyright.

Copyright is a monopoly, granted to creators on their works to allow them some control over them. Typically to allow them to earn money from the work.

Copyright's monopoly has a time limit, though: a work under copyright falls into the public domain after a specific period of time. The time limit is there because the original drafters of (modern) copyright wanted to make sure that after the creator had been reasonably compensated for the work, the public could then benefit by sharing it without restriction.

Copyright's monopoly also has a scope limit: a still-in-copyright work can be copied without infringment under certain circumstances. Criticism, satire and parody are typical. So, too, are copying for research, or personal study. Libraries have some rights, too. Again, the logic is that the public would be poorer if these forms of copying were prohibited.

The copyrights on the tune, the original English lyrics and the later Irish lyrics of The Soldier's Song (Amhrán na bhFiann)3 expired in 2012. Calling for the song to be returned to copyright is just wrong.

Being dead, neither Peadar Kearney nor Liam Ó Rinn have livelihoods. So the call isn't out of concern for that. Nor is it out of concern for any of their descendents who happen to still be alive, as the State bought the copyrights in the '60s, so they would have had no entitlement anyway!

What bothers those making the call is that once the song was came out of copyright, Paul Galvin, the former Kerry footballer, used it in ads to sell clothes, and they just didn't like that kind of thing.

But, simply put, that's not what copyright is for. As with every tool, if you use it for something it wasn't designed for, it could very well get broken beyond repair.

I understand why they want these types of restrictions to be placed on symbols of the state. But we have to call this what it is: censorship. We shouldn't be afraid of using that word.

Those who want to apply these controls on the national anthem should prepare specific legislation to address their concerns, rather than using something, like copyright, that would neither be appropriate nor effective. I can even donate a name for it, if they'd like: the "Censorship, Restrictions and Appropriation of State Symbols" bill. That way, just like what they do in the U.S., once it is signed into law, it can be referred to as the CRASS Act.

Footnotes:

1
If Article 11 of the EU Copyright Directive passes, the inclusion in this blog post of the headlines to those articles would be illegal. Isn't that just mad?
2
Read my previous article regarding why I believe this is a form "Copyright Theft"
3
By the way, only a portion of the song is the country's national anthem