Earlier this month, the Venezuelan President, Nicolás Maduro, used a remix of the Latin hit Despacito to encourage Venezuelans to vote for the Constituent Assembly, which will have powers to rewrite the national charter and supersede other institutions.
This was not sanctioned by the Puerto Rican singers of the song, Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee who released the following statement:
“At no point was I asked, nor did I authorize, the use or the change in lyrics of Despacito for political ambitions, and much less in the middle of a deplorable situation that Venezuela, a country I love so much, is living,” said Luis Fonsi on Twitter.
As the author of the copyrightable works (both musical and literary works in this case), Luis Fonsi has the moral right to protect his work’s integrity. The South African Copyright Act provides that the author of a work may object to any distortion, mutilation or other modification of the work where such action is or would be prejudicial to the honour or reputation of the author and there are analogous laws in many jurisdictions internationally.
“That you illegally appropriate a song (Despacito) does not compare with the crimes you commit and have committed in Venezuela. Your dictatorial regime is a joke, not only for my Venezuelan brothers, but for the entire world,” said Fonsi who left his words un-minced.
Despite the fact that non-Spanish speakers are mangling the lyrics of Despacito on dance floors across the Western world, this is authorised, and even encouraged by Fonsi and Yankee.
Fun fact: Despacito is the first (mostly) Spanish language song to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100 since 1996’s Macarena and has topped the charts in 45 different countries.