What have they done to my song?

Most of you will have recognised that as 'I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For' by the Irish rock group U2. That song is one of many hits featured on a popular compilation album, The Best of U2. So imagine what Czech U2 fan Jan Martinek felt when he popped a CD entitled 'The Best of U2' into his CD player but, instead of U2 lead singer Bono, heard a completely different voice coming out of his speakers. Beatrice Cady has more:

The best of U2, Abba, the Eagles, Madonna and Cher for an unbeatable 200 Czech crowns! Well look carefully at the cover before you buy what you think is the bargain of the century--somewhere, in very small print, you might discover the following words: "Performed by Studio 2000", which means you'll probably hear quite a different version of your favourite CD. Jan Martinek, just like dozens of customers throughout the Czech Republic, fell into that trap. Thinking they were buying Abba, people got back home to discover they had indeed bought a recording of Abba music, but performed by unknown artists.

This has been quite a shock to customers and music publishers. But what comes as a shock is not the copying, Czechs are used to that. Czech pop music's main source of inspiration has always been, since at least the sixties, the translation of foreign pop songs into Czech for the domestic audience. Although there have never been any complaints, it is doubtful whether Elvis Presley ever knew that 'Love me Tender' was famous here as Karel Gott's 'Par Havranich Copanku', sung to the same tune but literally translated as 'A Pair of Jet-Black Ponytails'.

What has come as a shock is "the obvious attempt to deceive customers" as the spokesman of the Czech Recording Industry Federation, Jaromir Soukup, told the Czech daily Mlada Fronta Dnes today. If you are going to sell an imitation, the name of the unknown artists who recorded it should be printed larger than the name of the famous singers who composed the original. He also added that if negotiations with distributors came to no agreement, his organisation would sue them. The spokesman of the Prague company Bohemia Servis however, had quite a different opinion. If you pay 200 Czech crowns for a CD that would normally cost you about 600, he said, you can't really expect the quality to be the same.

Author: Beatrice Cady
run audio