Published Aug 25, 2008From fake fireworks to lip-synching singers to alleged under-age gymnasts, the 2008 Beijing Games were not without their controversy. And according to a composer, you can add one more contention to the list Beijing organizers using orchestrations of national anthems without attribution, permission or compensation.
In a recent Washington Post article, composer Peter Breiner raised allegations that throughout the Games the Chinese used his unique version of "The Star-Spangled Banner without his consent. Breiners publisher Naxos Rights International has been seeking answers from Chinese officials, but so far to no avail.
According to the Washington Post, a side-by-side comparison of Breiners version of the U.S. national anthem and the version used during the Beijing medal ceremonies reveals the Chinese are using the composers ideas and work so blatantly that its nothing short of plagiarism.
"My arrangements of public-domain anthems are actually original compositions from a legal point of view," the Czech composer told the newspaper from his current New York home. "Which means if someone wants to record them, they have to purchase the material."
Breiner orchestrated more than 200 national anthems for the Athens Games, which used and paid for his work in 2004. The recordings were then released as an eight-volume compilation on the Naxos label. He says he still receives regular royalties for the use of his anthems, but when the Chinese were given the option to pay for them, they declined.
"They responded that they would make their own recordings with a Chinese orchestra," Breiner said.
Naxos head Klaus Heymann said he has received competing claims from the Chinese, where they say they received copies of the anthems from the International Olympic Committee and that they "found them on the internet," which he said were ridiculous. He also said its possible a Chinese music student simply transcribed Breiners Naxos recordings and that he is unsure what the company will do if the Chinese continue to deny the theft.
"It is difficult when you're dealing with another jurisdiction," Anne Godbout, head of legal services for the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (of which Breiner is a member) told the Washington Post. Godbout added that, in a case like Breiners, he would have to fight the legal battle in China.
When the deputy director for communications for the Beijing Olympics, Sun Weide, was contacted by the newspaper about the theft, Weide said: "We have not heard of Naxos. All the anthems and songs used at the Beijing Games were orchestrated by Chinese musicians." Weide declined to answer any questions about Breiner and the illegal use of his work and did not say were the Beijing Games received the anthems played during the Olympics.