Do you care about the future availability and development of Handpans?
Handpan Makers United becomes Handpan Community United
In 2017, Handpan Makers United was publicly launched. Numerous builders, promoters, and event organizers joined the organization to legally challenge what was viewed as highly questionable nitriding patents filed by Panart in the USA and European Union. This organization came together after years of legal threats and lawsuits against handpan builders by PANArt. Most of the original claims in the US patent have since been negated leaving the patent with negligible value. The EU court case is still on going.
PANArt’s Copyright Claim
PANArt’s years of apparent attempt to control the industry through lawsuits and highly questionable patents has culminated into their most audacious claim yet.
Twenty years after the creation of the Hang® and numerous years after ending its production, there has been a new (2020) lawsuit between PANArt, the creators of the original Hang®, and World of Handpans, a German online shop. PANArt won this case in its first instance and has recently published the verdict (in German). It states that the Hang® is a work of creative art and therefore protected by intellectual copyright. It also states that any handpan that uses a similar shape violates this copyright. The current court procedure will affect Germany, but PANArt has already said that they will go to court in other countries as well. They have already sent a Cease and Desist letter to Ayasa Instruments in Holland, a creator of Handpan instruments and shell suppliers to many other builders.
More specifically, PANArt’s claim states that the Hang® is not primarily a musical instrument, but a piece of ‘fine art’ and therefore eligible for copyright protection. Musical instruments are usually not protected under copyright because they have obviously functional value and are therefore not eligible for copyright. If interested, you can read more about some of the numerous functional reasons that the handpan is built in the current shape.
If this claim stands uncontested, it will have far-reaching consequences for the handpan world. Makers could be forbidden from creating handpans as we know them. It would be impossible to purchase handpans in their current form within the affected countries. In the worst case scenario this could also affect the right to public display through live concerts, videos, workshops, etc.
Unfortunately there is a long history of lawsuits involving PANArt and different handpan makers. While HCU wishes more than anything for a more positive and collaborative relationship between the handpan world and PANArt, in the current situation HCU feels the need to help those who end up in court as well as defend the industry from any one company’s control.
The larger goal is to counteract the current copyright claim just as HMU did with the nitriding patents and to preserve the continued creation and availability of handpans of any shape and form, as well as a creative space for new developments and further research into the subject.
Hard Case Technologies’ Alessio Massi on why this campaign is important
How you can help protect the Handpan!
Handpan Community United, a non-profit organization, was created to contest PANArt’s copyright claim and protect the future existence of the handpan instrument. HCU hired the high profile international law firm Bird & Bird, as it is of utmost importance to have the best lawyers available to ensure their goal. From recent events, it is clear PANArt has spared no expenses on their own legal representation. The seriousness of adequately funding and defending this cause cannot be underestimated. PANArt’s recent Cease & Desist, warning letters and court proceedings against shops in Germany (World of Handpans and Yatao Shop) and a maker/material provider from the Netherlands (Ayasa Instruments) clearly show what is at stake. This is just the beginning…
The funds required to defend this instrument are substantial. However, the effect on our lives will be even greater if the handpan instrument ceases to exist as we know it. A serious and well-defended response requires expertise and funding if we are to effectively protect the handpan industry from the very real threat of being shut-down.
The court procedures can potentially last several years and the current estimate of legal costs from Bird & Bird from start to finish is approximately 250,000 Euro. All raised funds will be placed in the trust account of HCU, a registered non-profit organization, to be used only for purposes as defined in the HCU Mission Statement.
Please help spread the word about this crowdfunding campaign and a huge THANK YOU in advance for everyone’s support!
If you love the handpan and want to show your support for the future of this industry
Please visit https://hcu.global/ where you can become a supporting member and sign up for the newsletter.
You an also find HCU on Facebook.
It is inspiring to see this organization of so many builders, players and promoters of the Handpan art form come together for its protection!
HCU strongly believes that this goal is worth fighting for and that this is best done as a global community!
Handpan Community United Mission Statement:
“Countless people have developed a relationship with and enriched their lives through the handpan for more than a decade, and many can’t imagine a life without it. Over the years, the handpan instrument has developed its own community and has become a worldwide movement.
Unfortunately there is a long history of lawsuits between PANArt, creators of the Hang®, and various handpan makers. Recently a copyright claim has been made which states that Handpans which use a similar shape as the Hang®, are illegal copies. If the claim stands, it could have wide-ranging consequences which have the potential to seriously compromise the future of our community.
This has led to the emergence of the Handpan Community United (HCU) foundation. HCU is a non-profit organization with one main focus: To safeguard and protect the growing international handpan community, through the commitment to preserve the playing, fabrication, availability and the further development of the handpan musical instrument.
To ensure our main purpose, HCU is willing to give support to individuals where needed, be it financial, advisory or otherwise- while not specifically endorsing or supporting the actions of any individual reseller or maker.
We have enormous respect for Felix Rohner’s and Sabina Schärer’s work. However, we do not feel their claim of copyright is fair nor correct in the current climate towards our community.”
“I always knew in my heart one day that my work would find its way. I could not tell you how. There was no one there for me, to show the way, but I figured it out. I figured it all through for all of you to see today.” – Ellie Mannette (widely considered the father of the Steel Pan)
“Further collaboration between art and science is needed to make it possible that other Hangmakers may exist in the future”. – Panart (History, development and tuning of the Hang 2007)