Tussle over "Tu Po" Terminology

Writer: 
Nay Htun Naing

(1)

A controversy sparked when the Carlsberg Group imprints the word “Tu Po” on their Tuborg beer cans and bottles and distributes them in Myanmar.

Tu Po is the name of a famous Thingyan Water Festival-themed song written by an acclaimed composer, Myoma Nyein, in 1940. The word and the festival have become synonymous for more than seven decades in Myanmar.

The Tuborg beer was produced in 1873 in Denmark. The Carlsberg Group introduced it to Myanmar in May 2015 with the advertising slogan “Tu Po ne’ Myuusoot” (Let’s have fun with Tu Po). Since they used Tu Po, it seemed they are aiming to promote the sales in the 2016 Water Festival in April.

Tu Po belongs to Myoma Nyein – and his family after his passing. The word has become the spirit of Mandalay [Myoma Nyein’s hometown] and the country’s national festivity identity.

Myoma Nyein’s family has forbidden the beverage company from using the word since the beginning. Even if the family permitted, the public should forbid the word from being used in such ways.

The company had negotiated with the family for four times for the permission to use the word. The family kept saying no.

However the company distributed the beer in the cans and bottles bearing the word Tu Po in Burmese language. This is ethically wrong.

On January 15, the family of Myoma Nyein called a press conference in Mandalay and demanded the company to remove Tu Po from beer containers within one week.

The family did not wish any payment; they only asked for a complete removal of the word Tu Po from the beer containers. They also warned that a legal suit will follow under international laws.

The family does not want any payment or compensation. They just ask to stop using Tu Po or face the court.

(2)

Rendering Tuborg as Tu Po intentionally is a copyright infringement.

It is wrong to say there will be no legal suit just because the Myanmar patent law has flaws.

The case can be brought to the court under civil charges locally, and in accord with the Traditional Knowledge and Geographical Indication internationally.

Besides, the meaning of a word invented by an individual must not be diluted by using it in another place.

Tu Po may be used in equipments concerned with the Thingyan Festival by obtaining the permission from those who hold the copyright.

But using the word together with the alcoholic beverage is an act of devaluing the meaning of Tu Po.

For example, no one can use the names of the country’s highly respected Buddhist monks, Van U Wisara and Van U Ottama commercially.

Tu Po must be removed from the faces of the beer containers because:

1) It is the property of Myoma Nyein whose songs are registered lawfully and protected by copyright. Using the word without the permission of the copyright holder is an infringement of law.

2) The family of Myoma Nyein does not want any forms of payment for using the word. They just do not want Tu Po to be used. Shoon Myaing, son of Myoma Nyein, said in the January 17 edition of The Voice Newspaper that they did not permit “Shwe Mann Marla” – another word created by his father – to be used even in an ordinary product, let alone alcoholic beverage.

3) Tu Po has become the symbol of the song writer himself, Mandalay City, Thingyan Festival, and the country’s traditional values. Tu Po has become more famous than its creator and is loved by the Myanmar community.

4) If the brewery made a mistake, it can change the word from Tu Po to Tu Bog or any other word. If they continue using it, it is obvious that they are doing it intentionally. The case will result in copyright charge. The compensation will be in hundreds of millions of dollars. There are many people to stand in support with the family.

(3)

The Tu Po issue sparks a debate especially on social network. Some give typical comments while some distort the reality.

Most of the ordinary comments support the family of Myoma Nyein.

But some people make comments without observing the explanation of the family thoroughly. They said that it is impossible to sue the beer brand which has been produced since 1873. This is a wrong approach.

The family does not wish the brewery to leave the country or stop manufacturing beer. They just demand the company to remove the words ‘Tu Po’ from beer cans and bottles. If the company employed the word Tu Bog or anything except Tu Po in first place, there will not be such conflict today.   



Some sarcastically say about filing a lawsuit, pointing out that some famous Thingyan songs are also copied from others.  

There are a lot of copied songs in Myanmar's music industry, but this issue is different. "To Po" is not the script coming from a copied song.  

However, some people question Myoma Nyein's Tu Po by showing examples of "New Year Mingalar" song similar to the tune of Indonesian song "Ayo Mama" and "The Face of Padauk" similar to the tune of "Drinking Tequila" by Jim Reeves.

The song titled New Year Mingalar was written by Min Zaw and the song titled The Face of Padauk by Nay Win. They were not composed by Myoma Nyein. These two songs became famous after being featured in the film "Thingyan Moe" (Rain during Thingyan Festival). I won't say about this if they rise to a controversial issue. But, Myoma Nyein's Tu Po song is not a copied one at all.

Some even have made the issue humourous without having knowledge of who Myoma Nyein is.

Myoma Nyein was born in 1909 and died in 1955. He was regarded as a musician of genius as well as Myanmar's symphony. He composed nearly 200 songs. The song titled "Chit-tar-padana" (To love is most important) first made him famous in the country. In his career of 24 years, he wrote a lot of very famous songs such as Khint-einmat (Lady’s Dream), Ta-chit-tee-chit (Single Love), Myin-khin-daw (Equestrian Ceremony), Yay-khin-daw (Royal Naval Cermeony), (, Phu-sar-paing (Controller of destiny of marriage), Nat-shin-naung (King), Mei-bar-naing (Unforgettable Lady), Pyo-hmar-tan (Lady’s Message), Thet-wai (Referring Love), Parami-daw (Acquired Virtue), Chit-ye-baw (Comrade), Min-ga-lar-maung-me (Auspicious Couple), Shwe-min-wun (Minwun Mountain Ranges), Ngwe-zin-yaw (Silvery Seagull), Pyone-de-may (Smiling Lady), Lay-cho-thway (Sweet Voices), Mann-taung-yeik-kho (Let’s go to Mandalay Hills), Ma-pyi-thay-thaw-pachi-car (Unfinished Painting), Thitsa (Truth) and so on. Tein-hlwar-moe-moe-lwin (Dull Clouds in the Sky) was most famous.  

In the contemporary of Myoma Nyein, the culture in which Western melodies were taken in Myanmar songs was beginning to develop. In some songs, Myoma Nyein made references to the Western style. But he did not copy the tunes of whole songs. Most were his own creations.

Even if another person, not Myoma Nyein, wrote a song whose tune is copied, the words were the intellectual property of that person. The song is owned by the creator.

(4)

Apart from those critics without much knowledge of Myoma Nyein, there are also those who are knowingly trying to harm his image.

Among them are those who are misleading the public by raising the issue of Myanmar beer. There comes an attempt to protect the interest of the brewery company and make political gains. At a time when the Tu Po issue is being measured with the national cultural standard, they are trying to mislead the people about it in comparison with "Myanmar beer". Some say about this without ulterior motive, while some want to protect the company.   

One can file a lawsuit against Myanmar beer, if dissatisfied with the word "Myanmar". Such action can also be applied in the case of "Mandalay beer".

In the case of "Tu Po", Myoma Nyein's family does not approve the use of the name. They said they would take legal action if the name continues to be used. It is not a problem that many are talking about the term Tu Po as it is concerned with the national culture, while protecting the right of Myoma Nyein's family.  

The problem is that some are talking about "Myanmar beer" by taking advantage of the Tu Po controversy. These two issues must be different view. It is doubtful that some unscrupulous people and companies are creating slanderous news as they are told without thinking about the standards of the Mandalay culture and Myanmar's national culture.

According to a source, the brewery company aimed not only to use the name "Tu Po" but to put the tune of the song in its advertisement. When the first time Myoma Nyein's family and the company met, the company side brought both the words and melody of Tu Po song. But the family refused it. The company seemed to use it intentionally. It is right legal action should be taken if they continue to use the name. This is the first point.  

Secondly, who approved the use of Tu Po script, which is widely known among the public, on the beer bottle? The concerned ministry or organisation is responsible for giving such permission without considering the copyright owner. Investigation is necessary and action needs to be taken if there is any corruption.  

The imprint of the name "Tu Po" on the beer bottle not only concerned with Myoma Nyein's family or the Mandalay culture but also concerned with the national culture of Myanmar. It is concerned with every Myanmar national. It is an insult to the national symbol of Myanmar.

The soul of Mandalay was almost lost due to the misleading notion that what happens in Mandalay only concerns with Mandalay. Now, some have come again to devalue Myanmar's cultural standard. Due to such an ill attempt, Myanmar's cultural identity should not be lost.  

The attempt to protect the interest of the brewery company by taking advantage of the "Tu Po" controversy will be tantamount to disrupting the effort to promote Myanmar's culture.   

In this context, I firmly stand by "Tu Po" and Myoma Nyein's family.