“Our national songs hold a special place in the hearts of Singaporeans. MCCY takes any challenge to our proprietary rights and interests in our national songs and symbols very seriously, and we will take the necessary steps to protect them,” Minister for Culture, Community and Youth & Second Minister for Law Edwin Tong said in Parliament today, 5 April.
Our principal consideration, when addressing questions on the use of copyright in our national songs and symbols, is to ensure that we protect our ownership and interest in our national songs and symbols, as well as to promote the dignified use and respectful use of them, the Minister said.
He was responding to a question from PSP Leong Mun Wai who wanted to know the actions the Ministry has taken to protect Singapore’s copyright in the case of the song “Count on Me Singapore” that was plagiarised.
Mr Tong said that his ministry first received feedback that the song “We Can Achieve”, was featured in several videos, some of which were of school children, apparently from India, singing the song.
Save for minor differences, this song was almost identical to “Count on Me, Singapore”. Mr Tong also noted that the song was not disrespectfully treated.
The publisher of the song “We Can Achieve” subsequently came forward to acknowledge that the song seemed to be substantially copied from “Count on Me, Singapore” and apologised for it. It also removed the song from their platforms
“We did not believe that there was any ill will or malice intended, and hence accepted this apology,” Mr Tong said.
However, shortly after, Mr Joey Mendoza alleged that he, in fact, was the one who wrote the song “We Can Achieve” in 1983. Mr Tong said Mr Mendoza’s assertion was untenable as the song was practically identical to “Count on Me, Singapore”.
“If his claim was right, it would be a direct affront to our own ownership and interest in the national song ‘Count on Me, Singapore’,” Mr Tong said.
His ministry, therefore, pressed Mr Mendoza to substantiate his claims. Mr Tong said, “We were prepared to initiate legal proceedings, if necessary, to protect our position.”
MCCY also undertook extensive fact-checking in Singapore and in India, to refute Mr Mendoza’s claims.
“In response to our requests for proof of his claims and to substantiate his position, Mr Mendoza then changed his position. He subsequently withdrew his claims. He admitted that he had no evidence to support his claims,” Mr Tong said.
“Mr Mendoza’s admissions leave no doubt that “Count on Me, Singapore” was written by Mr Harrison and that the rights and ownership in the national song remain with us. Mr Mendoza also wrote to us to confirm that the song “We Can Achieve” has been taken down from known networks and platforms. We have thus let the matter rest on this basis.”