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Teosto Manages Copyrights in Sibelius’ Works


Jean Sibelius is still one of the most performed Finnish composers in the world. Sibelius’ works are used in many contexts and from time to time questions relating to copyrights arise. Most recently  in connection with the inauguration of the President of the United States Joe Biden in January 2021.

When guests began to arrive at the inauguration of Joe Biden the United States Marine Band played Ryan J. Nowlin’s work Godspeed, John Glenn, which contains a clearly identifiable part of Sibelius’ “Finlandia Hymn.” The question arose: Did the event break Finnish copyright with the performance?

Finlandia Hymn is a tone poem for orchestra, composed by Jean Sibelius in 1899. It premiered in Finland and reached an international audience the following year. Its first performances under that title were given by the Helsinki Philharmonic at the Paris World Exhibition of 1900.

Teosto is the Finnish copyright organization entrusted with managing the copyrights to and the use of Sibelius’ works and the collection of royalties on behalf of the rightsholders. As in most European countries, the term of copyright protection is 70 years after the death of the author. In the case of Sibelius, copyright to his works expires in 2027. However, in the United States, this same rule applies only to works made after 1978; for works older than this, the term of protection is determined by the year of publication of the work.

Consequently, in the United States, Finlandia Hymn’s copyright protection has already expired and the work is in the public domain.

Due to this mismatch in terms of protection, although public domain in the United States, Finlandia Hymn is still protected in Finland and in several other countries, including most of Europe. Nevertheless, the work was also communicated to public in Europe as part of the television broadcast of inauguration.

Some questions also remain in relation to situations where a public domain work is attached into an entirely new work. Teosto is currently looking into the US legal framework and market practice, especially when it comes to creating derivative works and attribution of the original composer in these situations.

Teosto has sent an information request to the local copyright organization ASCAP and is waiting for their response.

“Sibelius is one of the great Finnish icons, so of course we take such cases very seriously. Overall, the impact of music on exports and the image of Finland is significant. That is why it is important that Finnish music performed abroad and that copyright is taken care of”says Jani Jalonen, Teosto’s Chief Custome Officer.

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