Big tech accountability? Read how we got here in  The Closing of the Net 

--- And a  Merry Christmas to all Iptegrity readers!---

They can’t copyright Christmas can they?  The  public debates around  Christmas and commercial profit tend to focus on consumerism and retail sales. What role does copyright and intellectual property  play in it? Scratch the surface and you will find that intellectual property  plays a critical role in making that consumer Christmas happen. Indeed, it is like the cement which binds so many elements that comprise what we now call ‘Christmas’.

  For Christmas is now so much about what the marketing men call ‘branding’.  If  you put branded perfume, chocolates, alcohol into your Christmas shopping basket, you are literally buying into the IP  that is the brand. Your Christmas dinner may well l consist of branded food – in Britain, a  Bernard Matthews turkey, for example.

 Of course, it gets more sinister when you consider the  Christmas Day  entertainment. The branded party games that you may play after your festive meal will be IP protected  - Monopoly, Scrabble, Twister, etc.  

Does your family have a sing-along?  Christmas is an integral part of the music business. There are literally dozens of new Christmas pop songs. It’s not just the Christmas Number One song. There is a short tail of popular ditties which presumably  earn their composers, lyric-writers, and recording companies a jolly nice Christmas bonus in copyright fees.  George Michael, Queen, Elton John, Cliff Richard, Mud, the Pogues and Kirsty McColl, Dean Martin, Shakin’ Stevens, the Ronettes, Amy Winehouse  – they’ve all had a Christmas song. Even Alice Cooper did a macabre  version Santa Claus is Coming to Town. And Bruce Springsteen lent his brand of New York cool to  Santa too.

 Slade’s Merry Christmas Everybody is played in every supermarket, d-i-y store, pub, petrol station – you name it, they play it throughout December  ( in Britain anyway). Lead singer Noddy Holder’s pension pot is likely to get a hefty  post-Christmas  top-up from the Performing Rights Society (via SGAE, GEMA, SABAM, SACEM, etc).

Even Classical Christmas songs which are out of copyright will be  caught in  the IP net  because the recording (CD. download, MP3)  will be in-copyright.

 Christmas is also important to the book trade. That other famous Noddy, the  children’s book character, still works for his copyright even 40 years after his creator’s death. The cheeky little chappie with the red hat is available for personalised Christmas  books  where your child is the central character – what would the author  Enid Blyton have made of that? Not to mention his DVD  Noddy Saves Christmas. All grist to the   Blyton estate. 

 Even the august BBC manages to exploit Christmas with special boxed sets of its copyrighted comedies, because after the turkey is cleared away, the sing-along has ended and party games are exhausted,  people love to view old favorites like Yes Minister  .

 This is only a very tiny glimpse  of the role that copyright and IP plays in Christmas. I haven't even mentioned  Disney or Warner.  But I think you get the picture.  Have a happy copyright Christmas!

 PS. 3 January 2012. Viewing  the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special, my "short tail" was uncannily  accurate, with Shakin' Stevens providing the live music, and   this Santa jive

You are free to re-publish this article under a non-commercial Creative Commons licence, but you must attibute the author and put a link back to Academics – please cite this article as Monica Horten, A Happy Copyright Christmas!, 23 December 201 . Commercial users – please contact the author.


Iptegrity in brief is the website of Dr Monica Horten. I’ve been analysing analysing digital policy since 2008. Way back then, I identified how issues around rights can influence Internet policy, and that has been a thread throughout all of my research. I hold a PhD in EU Communications Policy from the University of Westminster (2010), and a Post-graduate diploma in marketing.   I’ve served as an independent expert on the Council of Europe  Committee on Internet Freedoms, and was involved in a capacity building project in Moldova, Georgia, and Ukraine. I am currently (from June 2022)  Policy Manager - Freedom of Expression, with the Open Rights Group. For more, see About Iptegrity is made available free of charge for  non-commercial use, Please link-back & attribute Monica Horten. Thank you for respecting this.

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