Hockey fans, starved of on-ice NHL action on the screen, may finally be able to hear their favourite music -- in a courtroom.
The owners of the musical composition that has been called Canada's second national anthem, the theme of Hockey Night in Canada, are suing the CBC for $2.5-million for allegedly violating the licensing agreement that allows the broadcaster to use the music.
The theme was written in 1968 for the MacLaren ad agency by Dolores Claman as a commercial jingle that would air at the beginning of the hockey broadcast for one year, but Ms. Claman kept the copyright.
Ms. Claman, who now lives in England, is one of the owners of Morris and Claman Associates Ltd., which operates under the trade name Vine Maple Music, the firm to which she assigned her copyright of the HNIC theme in 1987.
The claim was filed in Ontario Superior Court by Morris and Claman Associates and its agent, Absolute Productions Inc., which operates as Copyright Music and Visuals, after they were unable to satisfy themselves that the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. was sticking to the terms of the licensing agreement, their lawyer said.
"My clients, and Dolores Claman in particular as a shareholder of the corporation, are disappointed and frustrated in the result [of their efforts] They would have dearly liked some of the questions answered," their lawyer, Kevin Kemp of Alliston, Ont., said in an interview.
The claim seeks $2-million for breach of copyright and contract and $500,000 in punitive damages.
According to the claim, Molson Breweries, which produced HNIC, used the theme from about 1970 to 1995 in violation of the copyright and without the payment of any fees to Ms. Claman or Vine Maple Music, but finally signed an agreement in 1995.
In 1998, after Molson lost the right to produce the hockey broadcast, CBC entered into a four-year licensing agreement to use the theme, and a subsequent agreement was signed in January, 2003.
According to the claim, 1998 and 2003 licensing agreements with the CBC allow the theme to be used only on HNIC broadcasts on the CBC within Canada.
It alleges that the CBC has breached the agreement in three ways: By selling hockey broadcasts carrying the theme that were aired outside the country in Japan, Scandinavia, the United States and other countries or on digital channels in Canada, such as the Leafs Channel;
By using the theme on CBC shows other than HNIC, such as a Rick Mercer special, The Royal Canadian Air Farce and curling broadcasts;
By refusing to let Copyright Music and Visuals license the theme to a cellphone company for a ring tone unless the company purchased hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of advertising on the CBC.
The CBC has not responded to the allegations.
CBC spokeswoman Ruth-Ellen Soles said that "we have just received the statement of claim and are reviewing it."