The composer Ivar Must has sued the large enterprise Põltsamaa Felix, for the latter, according to Must, refuses to pay the composer for its signature tune, “Põltsamaa, ehtne ja hea”, which it has been using without permission for the last 22 years.
“Põltsamaa sometimes considers the tune its own, then attributes it to Tanel Padar, Heini Vaikmaa or Stig Rästa and sees no reason why the firm should pay me for its use”, Must referred the food producer’s position.
AS Põltsamaa Felix protests Must’s lawsuit, but is so far unwilling to explain the background of the dispute. According to Ants Nõmper, partner of the law firm Ellen Raidla, which represents the company in court, Must has reworded his claim of copyright violation several times after suing AS Põltsamaa Felix.
“The court has granted Must extra time for wording his claim. After Ivar Must has submitted the details and a preliminary hearing has been held, AS Põltsamaa Felix will know what it is accused of. Then the company will be ready to explain.”
The row concerns the advertising jingle “Põltsamaa, ehtne ja hea” (Põltsamaa, authentic and delicious”), which was written for the company’s juice commercial as long ago as in 1994. The author of the jingle is protected by the Estonian Authors’ Society.
Stig Rästa does not consider the jingle his creation. “I wrote an arrangement for it years ago, but I do not consider it a work of my own.”
Heini Vaikmaa says that the signature tune is not his creation. “Of course not. I have no idea where this story came from. The text was recorded in my studio years ago, but the music was already provided.”
Tanel Padar was not available for comment.
According to the copyright law the author has the sole right to permit the use, changing, arranging, broadcasting over the radio or in television – via cable, satellite or otherwise – of his composition. At least that is what the Estonian Authors’ Society states in its website.
But the case of Ivar Must and Põltsamaa Felix is more complicated than that. There was no written contract as the tune was completed and the composer merely handed over the jingle to the client. Must now finds that the enterprise should have taken care of concluding the contract and legalizing the transaction.
Must admits that he had forgotten about the signature tune for years due to other concerns. But once it could be heard every day on TV and radio, accompanying the commercials of Põltsamaa products, he contacted the Authors’ Society to find out, whether he was receiving the royalty for his work.
It turned out that the Authors’ Society does not collect royalties for advertising jingles. The use of music in commercials and the fee should be agreed upon between the client and the author.
Must then attempted to make contact with leading managers of the firm, which has been by now renamed Põltsamaa Felix, but had no success.
In the end of 2015 he picked up the issue once more. Although no law requires it, the composer registered the tune in question with the Authors’ Society and approached once more Põltsamaa Felix to collect the royalty he was owed.
“The people at Põltsamaa Felix said that they had no idea I was talking about, the just brushed me off”, Must complained. “I decided to hire a lawyer.”
Good practice in the advertising world provides two ways of approach: the author and the client agree upon a lump sum, for which the author gives up all rights and the creation becomes the property of the client for all times, or a license agreement is concluded, which leaves all rights, including material, to the author, who will be paid an agreed-upon sum for using the work during a certain period.
The usual period of use is one year. After the deadline expires, the use of the work must be discontinued or the contract can be extended. According to the law, such agreement must be in writing.
Dependent on the parties, the users pay different sums to the authors – some mention an “Estonian average”, others observe international practice. Therefore royalties fluctuate from 300 euros to several thousand.
Neither Põltsamaa Felix nor the firm, which ordered the initial tune, have made any agreement with Ivar Must or paid a cent for using it.
Põltsamaa Felix belongs to the Scandinavian large concern Orkla Foods. Ivar Must has been for years a member of Universal Music Publishing and consulting the latter revealed, according to the composer, that the average annual licensing fee for the Baltic states is 6,000 euros, including 20 percent for realization, and to which ten percent of the initial sum is added for every following year of use. Must summed up the years and is claiming more than 50,000 euros from Põltsamaa Felix (all accompanying claims included).
According to Must, his permission for using his work has never been asked – legally, officially or unofficially. Neither has he received any fee for the use of his tune in Põltsamaa Felix advertising campaigns. Since the firm failed to respond to the reminder or to pay the fee, the claim of royalty in retrospect is quite justified, he says.
“I want the right and justice”, the author of the winning Eurovision song contest entry “Everybody” declares.
The preliminary hearing of the court is scheduled for August 22. Ivar Must is represented by the law firm LEADELL Pilv Advokaadibüroo.