Patriotism pays in Albania

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The Independent Online
A MOST extraordinary trial is going on in London at the moment, the outcome of which could affect the playing of all national anthems.

Briefly, Zappo Music of London, in the person of its managing director, Jason Tribe, is being sued for breach of copyright of the Albanian national anthem. It is claimed that 'Don't Love Me Do', a record by the Anoraks on the Zappo label, contains long extracts from the Albanian anthem, on which royalties should be due. Zappo Music counter-claims that even if anyone could recognise the Albanian anthem, it would not materially affect sales of the record.

Yesterday Jason Tribe took the stand for the first time to undergo cross-examination.

Counsel: You are Jason Tribe?

Tribe: Yeah.

Counsel: You made the record called 'Don't Love Me Do'?

Tribe: Yeah.

Judge: If I may interrupt for a moment, I thought that 'Don't Love Me Do' was made by the Anoraks?

Tribe: Nah.

Counsel: I believe, my Lord, that the name of the Anoraks is merely a nom de microphone, as you might say, invented to conceal the fact that nothing on the record is performed live.

Judge: Then who plays on the record?

Counsel: I believe, my Lord, that it is almost entirely composed of small extracts from other records, given computerised backings and interlaced with drum machine tapes.

Judge: Do you understand what you are talking about?

Counsel: No, my Lord.

Judge: Good. Nor do I.

Counsel: Mr Tribe, there are, I believe, about 14 pre-existing records from which you quote in the course of 'Don't Love Me Do' by the Anoraks.

Tribe: 'Bout that.

Counsel: Is one of them the Albanian national anthem?

Tribe: You mean this old record we picked up in a junk store?

Counsel: Yes.

Tribe: Yeah.

Counsel: Could you explain why you chose to include a long section from the Albanian anthem on 'Don't Love Me Do'?

Tribe: Well, it had a nice sort of dreary quality that we thought would provide a counter-balance to the beat. The crackles on the old 78 were something else - they seemed to have their own crazy rhythm, like.

Judge: Can we get one thing clear: is this the anthem of the modern Communist state we are talking about, or the old, pre- Stalinist anthem?

Counsel: The loyalist anthem of monarchist Albania, my Lord.

Judge: Jolly good. Carry on.

Counsel: Now, you should, should you not, pay royalties to the composer of any theme that you borrow? Yet you did not pay any royalties to the author.

Tribe: We assumed the writer was dead.

Counsel: Would it surprise you to learn that Alka Bejaz, the composer of the Albanian national anthem, is still alive and well, at the age of 86, in a

New York retirement home?

Tribe: I don't believe it.

Counsel: Well, perhaps you will when Alka Bejaz himself takes the stand later. (Sensation in court. A telephone rings.)

Judge: For heaven's sake, will you all be quiet? I'm trying to answer the phone. (Silence.) Hello, Court A here. Mmmm . . . Hmmm . . . I see. Thank you. (Puts the phone down.) Well, you're not supposed to know about that phone, really, but it's my hot line to the Home Office, and they've asked me to put one or two questions. Er - this Albanian anthem: is it still in copyright?

Counsel: Very much so, my Lord.

Judge: So every time it is played, it should theoretically earn the composer a small royalty?

Counsel: Yes.

Judge: What seems to worry my friends at the Home Office is the thought that if Mr Bejaz wins this case, then every time a band plays a national anthem, whether for a state visit or at a sporting event, somebody somewhere will be sending a bill in. Of course, many anthems are out of copyright, but many, especially of the younger countries, are not. They don't really want there to be a precedent for royalties to be paid for the playing of an anthem. They also want to know what anthem is currently being used in Albania in these heady days of freedom.

Counsel: I believe there is a move to bring back Mr Bejaz's tune, my Lord.

Judge: Oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. They're not going to like this at the Home Office. Well, case adjourned. See you all down the pub.

The case continues.