Should any corporation have the right to copyright or trademark portions of Canada’s National Anthem, especially for marketing purposes? It seems VANOC feels it personally does in its bid to trademark the line, “With Glowing Hearts”(words) from the English version (mp3 )and “des plus brilliant exploits” (words) from the French version (mp3) for the 2010 games.

Now the last time I looked the National Anthem, English or French versions, it/they belonged to the Canadian people, which in turn mean we the people are the copyright and trademark holders, if any. Further to my understanding, anyone can use portions thereof without fear of reprisal unless of course VANOC has its way, at least commercially leading up to and during the 2010 Olympics.

O Canada” was originally sung on June 24, 1880 and 100 years later on July 1, 1980 was proclaimed Canada’s national anthem. The music was composed by well-know composer, Calixa Lavallée with the French lyrics written by Sir Adolphe-Basile Routhier. While there were many English versions written throughout history, the English version, written in 1908 by Mr. Justice Robert Stanley Weir with recommended changes by a Special Joint Committee of the Senate and House of Commons in 1968 became the official English version, as we know it today. The French Lyrics for “O Canada” remain unaltered from its original version.

As reported by Susan Lazaruk in the Province News, “VANOC said the trademark is to protect against commercial entities trying to capitalize on the motto.” I find the latter to be a total hypocrisy as VANOC in itself is a commercial entity.

Research shows that “O Canada” is in the public domain, meaning it can be used by anyone as he or she likes without fear of reprisal by VANOC if used for marketing purposes by any other entity leading up to and during the Olympic Games. Void of course of the Olympic Rings and a disclaimer that use of the words, “With Glowing Hearts” for marketing purposes is not in conjunction with nor related to the Olympics.

As stated by David Cobb, vice-president of marketing and communications for the committee, in an article by, Stephanie Levitz, THE CANADIAN PRESS “…the slogan won’t be used to sell goods, though sponsors for the Games have the ability to use it as part of their deal with the organizing committee.” ”…the committee’s “use of the motto in no way changes how these words can be used by Canadians or how Canadians enjoy the national anthem as a whole or the specific phrases,” organizers said in a statement.”

“We chose words that are cherished by all of us, words that we believe in,” John Furlong, the chief executive officer of the organizing committee of the Olympics, announced Thursday.

As Levitz pointed out, “It’s not the first time a line from the anthem has been seized for broader purposes.” “The Conservatives revamped the official government website in 2006 using the phrase “true north strong and free” on the welcome banner.” Unlike VANOC, I noted that the aforementioned phrase is void of the trademark symbol ™, leaving me to believe that at least some portions of the “true north strong and free” still exits.

Apparently, a small store in Stratford, Ont., called, “With Glowing Hearts”, will not be affected since they do not sell anything related to the Games according to Olympic organizers. That then reverts to the issue of VANOC vs. Vancouver based, Olympia Restaurant in 2004, which only sells souvlaki dinners or pizza, neither being exactly sports related products.

Olympia had used both its name and the Olympic style rings as part of its store logo and marketing since 1993 and had not come under fire until Vancouver won the rights to host the 2010 games. Like the small business in Stratford Ont., “With Glowing Hearts”, Olympia Restaurant in Vancouver, which does not sell Olympic related items and has had its name and logo 10 years prior to Vancouver being awarded the 2010 games, was not allotted the same hassle free courtesy.

As a Canadian I am proud that we are hosting the 2010 games and the opportunity to show the world what we as Canadians have to offer. Like John Furlong I too cherish the words’ “With Glowing hearts”, but I also cherish the fact those words are part of our National Anthem and the property of every Canadian. Personally, I draw the line at John Furlong and VANOC trying to impose its own set of rules that seemingly supersede the rights of Canadians be it individuals or established businesses in the name of the 2010 Olympics as to what we can and cannot use in respect to Public Domain properties and business marketing options.


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Allan Herman, Creative Visual Marketing Services Incorporated (CVM Inc.)

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