Feb 23 2024

Ongoing Attempts to Ban The Song “Glory to Hong Kong” Illustrate Just How Powerful –And “Dangerous”– Music Is Perceived to Be

We’ve all seen the recent headlines from around the world. Musicians, songwriters, and composers attacked as rabble-rousers and enemies of the state. Singers arrested, their performances banned as un-patriotic or sacrilegious. We’ve even seen lethal attacks committed against music creators for refusing to perform.  And just a few months ago, we saw legal action instituted by a foreign global power against the performance of domestic protest music on a global basis.

No matter our individual political or musical affiliations, the mission of the American music community is clear. We must quickly and effectively formulate ways to help curb this international trend of governments singling out artists and music creators for global punishment, due in large measure to fears over the inherent political power of music.

By way of example, one recent instance illustrating this distressing pattern is currently playing out in Hong Kong.  There, amid civil unrest in 2019 over Chinese Government efforts to crack down on what it deems as speech dangerous to national security, a pro-independence leader known only by the pseudonym “Thomas dgx yhl” penned a song known as “Glory to Hong Kong.”

The composition was immediately embraced by Hong Kong rights protesters, translated into various languages, and eventually widely recorded and electronically distributed.  Before long, those recordings were being played not only on the Internet, but in Hong Kong shopping malls and at sporting events and other gatherings, prompting public sing-alongs that have increasingly alarmed Chinese Government officials in both Hong Kong and Beijing.[1]

A little over six months ago, the Beijing-aligned Government of Hong Kong announced it had heard enough.  Having previously banned the secessionist anthem “Liberate Hong Kong” after protests began in 2019, the Government went to court last June 2023, seeking an even broader injunction against “Glory to Hong Kong.”  That motion, if granted, would have barred performance, broadcast, and distribution of the song throughout China, potentially leading to the punishment of Chinese citizens –and companies merely operating in China– for violating the ban anywhere in the world).  According to the Government’s court submissions, the song’s lyrics are meant to provoke secessionist acts in violation of Chinese law, and the court should act to eliminate the dangerous confusion that has been caused by the “mistaken use” of the song in place of the official Chinese National Anthem at over 800 Hong Kong and international events so far.[2]

As is often the case when governments attempt to ban musical works, the song instantly skyrocketed in popularity in China and around the world.  Within days of the court filing, “Glory to Hong Kong” topped the Apple iTunes charts.  That development, however, may have resulted in further action by the embarrassed Governments of Hong Kong and China. The original version of the song recorded by DGX Music (presumably related to Thomas dgx yhl) was suddenly pulled (at least temporarily) from global music streaming platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music, Facebook and Instagram’s Reels system.

Obviously, what we are witnessing in real time is another in a nearly endless series of attempts by governments and powerful interests around the world –representing all political persuasions– to forcibly remove politically contentious musical works from the public sphere and punish their creators and performers.

This past March 2023, NMC, in conjunction with the Paris-based International Music Council (IMC), explored the historical roots of this phenomenon in the hopes of helping the world-wide music community to fashion strategies for ensuring more effective, speech-related protections for music creators in the future.  NMC’s extensive briefing papers for the symposium trace the long litany of repression and coercion against individual creators who used their music to protest social and political injustice, including the 1973 murder in Chile of folksinger Victor Jara by the extreme right-wing Pinochet regime, the genocide carried out against Cambodian musicians and composers by the extreme left-wing Khmer Rouge Regime in the mid-late 1970s, and the attempted erasure of Native American/First Nation/Aboriginal music and culture by Constitutional democracies including the United States, Canada, the UK and Australia—efforts that over the course of centuries often resulted in the brutal deaths of those who resisted.[3]

Music-based repression and coercion, NMC concluded, are clearly global problems unlimited by either their political or geographic origins:

Music’s dual, facile ability to serve as both a powerful tool of propaganda and as an existential threat to power structures and political leaders has made it a prime focus of nervous governmental concern over the entire span of history….Music creators and performers have not only been frequently subject to pressure to conform and participate in governmental propaganda efforts, but also to repressive actions up to and including murder to enforce the silence of those dangerous, high-profile individuals who will not comply. In many cases, this effectively neuters the most persuasive voices of protest, while at the same time setting an example of what happens to those less visible citizens who choose dissent. The repression of music and creators is a government’s way of warning all of its people, “if this is what we’ll do to them, imagine what we’ll do to you.”

For the American music creator community, initially it’s that last point that must be our paramount concern.  While we may argue over whether certain musical expressions (other than outright hate speech) constitute patriotism or treason, it is incumbent upon us to champion the position that violence and imprisonment for peacefully expressing unpopular views should not be imposed on any person by any government, anywhere.  Though speech freedom advocates may argue for broader efforts to protect free musical expression –and in the future that may come– job one is to protect the lives and liberties of music creators who have been singled out today for political punishment.

How can we accomplish that duty?  At the NMC symposium, international experts and activists such as Ole Reitof of UNESCO, Julie Trébault of the Artists at Risk Coalition, Mark Ludwig of the Terezin Music Foundation, Dr. Ahmad Sarmast of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music, and Arn Chorn Pond of the Cambodian Living Arts organization, all agreed on the opportunities for the US music community to protect fellow, global music creators and performers from official repression by speaking out in appropriate ways.  Their advice may be distilled to three basic principles:

First, do no harm. This Hippocratic starting point for every effort to assist requires that all international actions must be carefully calibrated to avoid backlash against the endangered individual or group, and should be undertaken only in consultation with those knowledgeable about the local intricacies related to each incident.

Second, take action by shining a spotlight in the United States on the most egregious cases of music suppression wherever in the world they take place.  Write letters to the White House, to Congress, and to the US State Department and the US Trade Representative concerning individual cases, requesting that the US Government take appropriate steps to save the lives and freedoms of those at risk.  (Other actions may be contemplated, but only after the “no harm” principle has been fully strategized).

Third, for those not willing or unable to take such actions, lend support to organizations engaged directly in protecting the lives and liberties of members of the music community around the world.[4]

Artistic activism and the defense of it will never be an act of courage devoid of risk.  The ability in the US to speak out on such issues principally without fear of government reprisal, however, places on us a special responsibility to shine that brighter light on these escalating injustices and attacks.  Our community’s responsibilities are to ensure that such anti-democratic activities not remain hidden in the shadows, no matter where in the world they occur—including within our own borders.

If history has taught us one thing about the persecution of artists and creators, it is that silence is neither an effective nor an acceptable strategy for putting an end to it.

Charles J. Sanders

The National Music Council of the United States
[1] An English language version of the song is accessible at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6yjLlYNFKCg.
[2] Hong Kong, a former British protectorate the rule over which was transferred to Beijing in 1997, has continued to maintain its own political and economic systems for the past quarter-century.  Within the past decade, however, the Government of China has concentrated its efforts on bringing Hong Kong more closely in line with Beijing’s governing philosophies—including the stricter control of political speech.  In its submission to the court, the Government pre-emptively sought to quash accusations of censorship by asserting that Beijing “respects and values the rights and freedoms protected by the Basic Law (including freedom of speech), but freedom of speech is not absolute…. The application pursues the legitimate aim of safeguarding national security and is necessary, reasonable, legitimate, and consistent with the Bill of Rights….”
[3] See, https://www.musiccouncil.org/music-politics-history/.  The author of this statement was also the author of the Briefing Papers on behalf of the NMC.
[4] For a list of some non-profit organizations engaged in such activities, see, https://www.musiccouncil.org/protecting-free-speech-in-the-global-music-landscape/


Jul 23 2023

Support Music Education in Federal Policy – Visit the NAfME Grassroots Action Center Now!

Nov 21 2022

Musical Culture and Economics Rest on Both Speech Freedoms and Copyright Protections

New York, November 19, 2022 — With the suppression of artistic freedoms on the rise throughout the world, it remains clear that many governments continue to view the longstanding practice of lashing out against music creators to be an especially effective strategy in discouraging political dissent. That tactic has the dual intentions of silencing those voices perceived as most likely to spark impassioned protest, while simultaneously conveying the message that no one is safe from being targeted for commercial, financial and sometimes violent retribution over “unwelcome” speech. The warning to the public is simple, but blunt: “if this can happen to a star performer, composer or songwriter, imagine what can happen to you.”

To decry this dangerous trend, music creators and recording artists throughout North America are joining together to shine a light on the increasing misuse by governments of both intimidating law enforcement tactics and of electronic tracking technologies to curb the use of songs as a means of social and political criticism.

As regards the governmental weaponization of technology against music creators, for example, in at least one recent case, the metadata of a widely popular protest song was apparently changed to indicate a new and fictitious author and copyright owner. Copyright violations were then alleged against the original creator by the government-supported imposter as a method of having the songs automatically removed from various internet music sites.

This abuse of the copyright monitoring systems that serve as the economic lifelines to help protect and get music creators and artists paid is unacceptable, unethical and illegal. It is secondary in its lawlessness, however, to the acts of political intimidation being perpetrated by governments through the use of violence up to and including murder against targeted musicians and songwriters.

All of this must stop, and it must stop now. Once reported, appropriate steps should be taken by the global community of nations in pursuit of providing international protection and justice to the victims of abuses, including crimes against humanity.

Composers and artists rely on free speech and copyright protections in equal measure to safeguard our abilities to peacefully effect cultural advancement, and to create sustainable livelihoods for ourselves and for other members of our local communities. We cannot and will not abide by actions designed to undermine the pillars on which our social, artistic, and economic freedoms and lives rest, and pledge to do all within our legal power to assist in preventing the erosion of such rights –including the loss of life– whenever and wherever they occur in the world.

Music Creators North America (MCNA)
The National Music Council of the United States (NMC)
Fair Trade Music International (FTMI)
The Songwriters Guild of America (SGA)
The Society of Composers & Lyricists (SCL)
The Screen Composers Guild of Canada (SCGC)
The Songwriters Association of Canada (SAC)
The Alliance for Women Film Composers (AWFC)The Composers Diversity Collective (CDC)

For more information, contact: Charles J. Sanders, cjs@csanderslaw.com, 914 588 7231

Mar 07 2013

World Creators Summit

The National Music Council partners with CISAC to present the World Creators Summit – the leading international cross-industry forum addressing the future of the creative community and the entertainment business in the digital economy. This biennial event brings together the world’s most prominent creative artists, government officials, industry leaders and digital service providers to exchange views on the value of creative works, the future of copyright, the role of creators, and the collective management of authors’ rights, as well as to offer solutions for a sustainable creative industry.

The importance of creators and their creative industries in today's economic, cultural and social environment is vast: they are a factor of economic growth, they employ millions of people, they play a vital role in the social cohesion of countries and they are essential to ensuring the development of the digital economy.

The World Creators Summit (formerly known as World Copyright Summit), will take place in Washington DC at the Ronald Reagan Building & International Trade Center on June 4 and 5, 2013 (with an opening cocktail party on June 3 evening). The event’s slogan, “Create – Connect – Respect,” encapsulates the event’s vision of a fair and sustainable environment for the creative sector.

Now in its fourth edition, this biennial event aims at establishing a constructive dialogue, exchange ideas, debate diverse viewpoints and discuss the remedies linked to intellectual property and creative content online with all the stakeholders in the new digital economy, from creators, rights organizations and guilds, to content service providers, broadcasters, telecommunications operators, hardware manufacturers, legal experts and policy-makers.

For more information click on logo below.

Feb 22 2013

March is Music in Our Schools Month

Music programs nationwide are in danger. State and local legislators are attempting to make up for funding shortfalls in this difficult economy by cutting education budgets, which can place school music at risk. Advocacy takes place on many fronts, and advocates for music education need to learn to speak to different audiences, each of whom has a key contribution to make. Music In Our Schools Month – March 2013 – is a perfect time to get involved and do your part to ensure that America’s students have access to a comprehensive, sequential music education taught by exemplary music educators!

Read more here.





MONTCLAIR, NJ – As part of the “Music in Our Schools Month” celebration of March, 2013, the National Music Council (NMC) and the Music Publishers Association of the United States (MPA) have announced the release of a new, innovative education tool for primary school students designed to teach respect and admiration for creators, inventors and their works.  

Developed by NMC Executive Director and Montclair State University Professor, Dr. David Sanders, entertainment attorney and Songwriters Guild of America counsel Charles J. Sanders, and award winning animation artist Bevin Carnes, the lesson plan and educational extension activities will be available to educators via a free website, http://www.IMadeIt.org. The program was created to teach young students the consequences of disrespecting the rights of creators, and how activity such as appropriating the work of others without permission negatively impacts upon creators and stifles creativity in general.


“This project is part of a world-wide effort by creators to foster an understanding that the online protection of creative work enhances freedom of speech and the marketplace of ideas, rather than encroaching on them.” said Dr. David Sanders in announcing the curriculum.” The rampant disrespect for the creative and property rights of not just music creators, but creators of in all types of media, has resulted in incalculable harm over the past decade not only to the individual creators, but also to American culture as a whole. It is impossible to determine exactly how many composers and songwriters have stopped creating because they can no longer afford to do so, but suffice it to say that the problem of Internet piracy which has resulted in the diminution of music community income by well over fifty percent since 1999 has been personally devastating to most. One of the best long term ways to address and eventually reverse this trend is through education, starting in the youngest grade levels, by teaching respect for creators and their rights.”

According to Bevin Carnes and Charles Sanders, however, the approach has to be a gentle one.  “You can’t hit kids over the head with morality plays,” stated Carnes.  “You just show them through a medium they understand and love, animation, that actions have consequences, and ask them to draw their own conclusions.”  According to Charles Sanders, inspiration for the more subtle approach was drawn from the famous anti-litter campaign of the 1970’s, in which the tear on the cheek of a Native American over the mindless disrespect of litterers for natural beauty spoke volumes.  “That silent, iconic image has stayed with an entire generation of Americans, who were convinced as youngsters that though it might be easier to throw trash out of a car window, it just isn’t right, and it has consequences for all of us.  That’s the approach we’ve tried to take regarding the consequences of disrespecting creators.” 

Sanders added that the curriculum also instructs educators on the finer points of teaching concepts such as copyright and free expression to older students who may view the two as antithetical to one another.  “James Madison and the other Founders knew it in the 18th century, just as the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly stated it in the 20th and 21st centuries,” he said. “Far from being in conflict with one another, copyright protection is the very ‘engine of free expression,’ and promotes the advancement of culture.”  Added David Sanders, “Again, though, students are asked to reason through to their own conclusions, and perhaps adjust their own behavior accordingly.”

The project was underwritten by the Music Publishers Association of the United States. Founded in 1895, the Music Publishers Association is the oldest music trade organization in the United States, fostering communication among publishers, dealers, music educators, and all ultimate users of music.

The National Music Council is celebrating its 72nd anniversary as a forum for the free discussion of America’s national music affairs and challenges.  Founded in 1940 to amplify the positions of its music community members on issues concerning the importance of music in American life and culture, the Council’s initial membership of 13 has grown to almost 50 national music organizations, encompassing every important form of professional musical activity.


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Apr 28 2010

Past years

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Apr 16 2010


2008 Leadership in Music Symposium:
Still America’s Greatest Ambassador: Reaching Out to the World Through Music – A panel discussion moderated by Charles Sanders featuring: David Amram, Nenad Bach, Evans Revere, and Muhamed “Mo” Sacirbey.
View the video