THE BLOG

China Out in the Cold Over Alleged Theft of 'Frozen' Song

15/09/2015 10:31 BST | Updated 14/09/2016 10:12 BST

It's probably one of the most instantly recognisable songs of the decade so far. Loved by children and loathed by put-upon parents, the hit song Let it Go, from Disney's record-breaking film Frozen, has found itself at the centre of an international intellectual property row.

As part of China's bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, ten official songs were written, recorded, and utilised as part of the effort to bring the world's premier winter sports competition to the Chinese city. However, it didn't take long for the Chinese media - and users of social networks - to realise something was awry.

One of the songs - The Snow and Ice Dance - was deemed by many to be suspiciously similar to Disney's Academy Award winning song. Despite the vocals being different and the lyrics being written in a different language, there are a troubling amount of similarities.

This was first reported in a Chinese business magazine Caijing, which stated that there were similarities in tempo, melody, length, and instrument arrangement. Following this, a number of YouTube videos emerged, playing the songs side-by-side, therefore demonstrating how remarkably similar they actually are.

Because of this drama, China has inevitably been the subject of intense ridicule, both at home and abroad. Indeed - in the wake of the song's release, Chinese social media sites (Western social media sites like Facebook are banned in China) were flooded with disparaging comments. Outside of the country, the social media backlash has been just as damning.

In spite of this embarrassing episode, China did eventually win their bid and Beijing will host the Winter Olympics in 2022.

Due to the significant similarities between the two songs, it is unlikely that Disney would have too much trouble putting together a compelling argument for copyright infringement. The nature of Disney's business is such that a significant proportion of its assets are intellectual property based, so its legal team would be well versed in taking action to enforce its copyright and would presumably have sufficient financial backing to support an efficient policing strategy too.

It is therefore interesting that Disney has not taken any action to date. This could be for a number of reasons, the most likely of which is that a deal has been struck behind closed doors in order to avoid any further embarrassment for the Chinese government. Whatever the case may be, it's unlikely that such a matter has gone unnoticed by the entertainment multinational, and it certainly serves as a poignant reminder that creative copyrights need to be observed regardless of international boundaries.

Wayne Beynon is an IP lawyer at Cardiff and London based law firm Capital Law: www.capitallaw.co.uk