February 27, 2012. New Orleans. Who owns the rights to our National Anthem? Apparently, Conan O'Brien and the international FIFA football association. With the recent SOPA anti-piracy legislation and corporate America’s hyper-obsession with owning things, this author was surprised when Whiteout Press’ favorite version of the Star Spangled Banner was forcefully removed from YouTube. That led to a brief investigation into who exactly owns the rights to our National Anthem and a quest to find another copy of that specific performance.
It was 2010 and the NFL’s season opener in New Orleans. Singing the Star Spangled Banner was the lovely and talented Colbie Caillat. Usually, performers either transform the song into their own frightening creation or sing it as the sad, dreary song it has come to be. Colbie Caillat, with just her gentle voice and a quietly accompanying acoustic guitar, gives a rendition of our National Anthem like none before. They give the song a rhythm, something not usually associated with that anthem. It’s a folksy, California, bluegrass. If California has a sound, this is it. It’s unique and beautiful, just like Miss Caillat.
Colbie has sung that song countless times at outdoor sporting events. But this rendition was different. It was inside, away from roar of the outdoors. When the crowd was quiet, you could hear a pin drop. When they cheered, it was deafening. Broadcast on NBC before the Saints-Vikings game, her performance was a combination of honorable tradition with the perfect mix of California’s own Colbie Caillat. One imagines she could be that peace-loving hippie girl that sticks a flower in the turret of a tank. She began the song with a humble, reverent, soft voice.
Francis Scott Key
As the words of Francis Scott Key echo off the walls of the arena, one wonders how many Americans even know or care what the Star Spangled Banner is about, where it comes from or why it was written. The way Colbie Caillat emphasizes certain words with her foot-tapping melody almost makes your author feel like she gets it, she understands. Her passionate rendition places feelings and emotions exactly where Francis Scott Key put them as he described what he was witness to that historic night. That’s part of what makes her version so memorable and enjoyable.
Just as the outnumbered, outgunned and all but crippled American army withstood hell on Earth the fateful night our National Anthem was written, Francis Scott Key merely wrote what he watched and felt. And unlike all the other superstars who typically turn the Star Spangled Banner into their own personal work of art, Colbie Caillat generates goose bumps by doing the exact opposite. Even with her unique twist, she sings it with the honor and privilege of one of America’s daughters, not as a potential stepping stone to fame.
The Superdome is a closed-in stadium where the crowd is more than noticeable. On this day, the city’s fans were patriotic and honorable. As the NBC cameras panned the crowd, not a single person was doing anything but paying tribute to our nation. All stood at attention, most with their hands over their hearts. They even waited longer than most crowds do before screaming at the end of the song. Between the respect and reverence of the players, coaches, singer and fans, this particular rendition of our National Anthem was truly unique.
During the most powerful part of the song – “and the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air”, Colbie Caillat kicks it up a notch at the perfect instant and the crowd reacts with uncontrollable cheers. Where most artists deafeningly drag out the note or crack trying to achieve it, Colbie’s soft, gentle voice not only hits the high note, she somehow makes you feel it in your soul.
For those of us that refuse to forget what that song is about, that exact moment in the song corresponds with an exact moment in history, America’s most perilous moment ever.
America’s citizen soldiers were fighting for their lives against the most powerful and battle-hardened army in the world. With Washington DC in ruins, the White House in flames and America’s President on the run, the only thing that stood between our young, unprepared country and its end was a small army of boys, huddled in a fort just outside Baltimore. There, they held the last passage into America’s heart, defending it to the last. For 25 hours, they endured constant bombardment. All the while, thousands of terrified American citizens watched through the night’s darkness in horror. Their lives, and America’s existence, were being gallantly defended unto death by those nameless, faceless American boys.
It’s at this point in the song where Colbie Caillat hits the high note that causes the arena to erupt in cheers and Francis Scott Key describes the scene as it would be remembered throughout history. As the song transforms from sad and fearful to proud and powerful, those ‘rockets red glare’ and ‘bombs bursting in air’, ‘gave proof through the night that our flag was still there’. Somehow, some way, America’s sons held on. And the only way anyone knew it was because the tattered American flag still flew over the devestated fort. America’s never come closer to perishing from the Earth as we did that night. That’s why the poem written by one of the eye-witnesses was adopted as our nation’s anthem.
The Star Spangled Banner isn’t some tribute to any queen or king like so many others. Our National Anthem is a battle anthem. It’s an anthem about regular American kids, untested citizen-soldiers, standing up to the most powerful army in the world and emerging from an all-night firestorm from hell victorious.
At this point in the song, NBC cameras pan the players and the crowd. One red-headed fan happily sings along, hand over heart. Inspired by the song, the words or the game, a Vikings player thrusts his helmet up in the air as he stands at attention. Scary-looking monster-sized players sway from side to side with the rhythm of the guitar, hands on hearts. A proud military-looking father and son pair, both in Saints jerseys, stand at attention saluting the flag like it was an honor and not a military requirement. Those were just some of the heartfelt and memorable images captured by the network cameras at that moment.
Ending the song quietly and yet powerfully, the crowd rewards the singer and guitarist with an eruption of cheers. While the change in rhythm may or may not be to everyone’s liking, for a fan of our nation’s National Anthem, it’s enough to produce goose-bumps.
FIFA and Conaco Productions LLC
We at Whiteout Press liked this particular version of Colbie Caillat singing the National Anthem so much, we posted it on the Whiteout Press home page and suggested our readers and subscribers give a view. For a quick blast of patriotic energy, we would often give it a listen just to keep up the fight one more day. Imagine our surprise when one day – the National Anthem disappeared.
The news shouldn't be left wing or right wing, conservative or liberal. It should be the news. It should be independent - Whiteout Press
According to YouTube, the poster had his or her account terminated for copyright infringement. The Star Spangled Banner was subsequently removed from YouTube. The complainants – FIFA and Conaco Productions LLC. For those of us not in the internet piracy business, a quick search revealed that FIFA stands for Federation International de Football Association. And Conaco Productions is owned by Conan O'Brien.
It’s strange that a foreign organization can force America’s National Anthem off the internet. Something just doesn’t seem right about that. Granted, an assortment of people created that beautifully memorable two minutes of audio and video. One would think the most deserving of ownership of that version would be Francis Scott Key or Colbie Caillat. Even NBC could rightfully lay a claim to that 120 seconds of American testimony. Conan O'Brien and some European soccer body didn’t appear to have anything to do with it.
If our readers would like to check out the 2010 Colbie Caillat version of the Star Spangled Banner in New Orleans, watch it quick before this one gets ripped down too. And as we half-joked the first time we posted this video six months ago, please don’t sue us.
Perhaps it’s just the idea of anyone ripping our National Anthem down from the internet that rubs us the wrong way. When Congress made the Star Spangled Banner our nation’s official national anthem in 1931, they made the song public domain. Today, lawyers and corporations still recognize that fact in theory. But once a person says, sings, reads or writes the words of the Star Spangled Banner, someone owns it, and it’s not you.
Who owns the rights to the Star Spangled Banner?
If you Google that question, you’ll soon find out that many people own the rights to the National Anthem, and again, it’s not the American people. One lawyerly reply to that question explained that any time someone sings the Star Spangled Banner, there are “mechanical rights”, “copyrights”, “Publishing Rights” and “Performing Rights”. Just as Whitney Houston never owned her own enormously popular version of the National Anthem, anytime we Americans hear or watch our beloved national song played or sung, it’s owned by someone other than us, often a multinational corporation.
That’s bad enough. But when those foreign entities and powerful corporations force individual Americans to stop listening to their own Star Spangled Banner, something is horribly wrong. Who would have ever thought that listening to America’s National Anthem could ever be a crime. But some how, some way, it is.
If these powerful foreign associations and multinational corporations want to play hardball over our national song, perhaps it’s time Congress gives the National Anthem universal ownership. Like the American flag, the Star Spangled Banner belongs to the American people, regardless of who owns the taxpayer-subsidized cable wires and satellites that transmit it. In the meantime, someone should tell Conan O'Brien to lay off the National Anthem and the people who cherish it.