National Heritage Board cops flak for using 'DJ Beng' audio app without attribution

The National Heritage Board (NHB) has copped flak for modifying an audio clip from an app for its Instagram filter without attributing to its original creator. MARKETING-INTERACTIVE understands that the Instagram filter, which placed the words "lohei" on users' foreheads, came with two different background music for users to choose from - one of the which was created originally by app founder Koh Beng Liang, and was later modified by NHB.  In a Facebook and Instagram post, the NHB apologised for utilising audio from the popular "Dj Beng lohei app" in the brand's “Lohei, Our Way” campaign without crediting the original creator. 

"We worked with a content agency to produce the filter as part of a series of social media posts to raise public awareness about the practice of lohei, in conjunction with Lunar New Year. We have confirmed with the agency that audio from Koh's app was mixed with stock music for the filter, which was then posted without crediting Koh or his app," the apology added. NHB also said it has made "an unreserved apology" for the oversight and has since removed the filter. "We value and respect the works by creators, and we take copyright violations seriously. We have communicated this to the content agency, and are putting in place stricter internal reviews and checks to ensure this does not happen again," it added. 

NHB declined to comment further on MARKETING-INTERACTIVE's queries. 

In a conversation with MARKETING-INTERACTIVE, Koh said NHB's filter first came to his attention on Chinese New Year's eve via Instagram, which he promptly took to NHB's Facebook to voice out his concern and request for an apology. According to him, NHB responded by personally contacting him and apologising, while assuring him that it would issue a public apology and take down the filter.

Koh felt that NHB's use of his audio app without permission was "a big irony", since NHB is a brand about heritage, and heritage is nothing without intellectual property, "which it blatantly disregarded in this case", Koh said. Koh added that while he appreciated NHB's campaign to educate the public of the history of lohei, the experience has been marred by this issue. 

Nonetheless, Koh said the blame should not be put on NHB, as it is trying its best to promote heritage. Instead, Koh is of the view that the agency is equally at fault here, as it "chose to take the lazy road" even though it is paid for its creativity and originality. "It is inexcusable for the agency to do so," Koh said, adding that if the agency had approached him for permission, he would have gladly let them use the audio app. Koh added that this was not the first time such an incident has happened to him, but declined to comment further on his other experiences. 

A quick check by MARKETING-INTERACTIVE has found that NHB's filter is no longer on its Instagram page. Besides the filter, the campaign also produced a set of Instagram stories titled "Do 'Yu' know?", where it quizzed audiences fun facts on the history of lohei (a Chinese New Year tradition that sees families tossing a dish with fish). It also curated Facebook posts featuring stories by the elder generation about how the tradition of lohei has evolved. 

Although NHB has put out an apology explaining the situation, netizens were unsatisfied with the given statement. Many netizens commented that NHB should name the agency responsible for the filter, with a few others also questioning NHB if it will be paying Koh for the use of his audio app. When asked if NHB will be compensating him, Koh said he did not ask for any compensating. Since he created the app for non-commercial purposes, he instead urged users who enjoyed it to make a donation to a charity of their choice. NHB has declined to comment on MARKETING-INTERACTIVE's queries on which agency created the filter. 

NHB is no stranger to creating filters for its Instagram page to engage audiences. Last National Day, the brand created two different filters this National Day. The first filter, titled "NDBeats", allows users to move their heads towards the beats of iconic National Day songs, while the other filter, titled "ND(face)Paint", changes the background of the users to one with virtual fireworks.

Earlier last year, NHB also worked with The Secret Little Agency (TSLA) for its Ramadan campaign titled "Ramadan Together". Aimed to depict a different kind of Ramadan celebration during this circuit breaker period, the campaign is fronted with a 90-second film featuring the Muslim community in Singapore. The film showed empty places in Singapore such as markets and mosques during this period, and includes narratives from different Singaporeans who share about what they will miss this Ramadan. It then transitions into the different Muslim families using technology to continue visiting each other during Ramadan.

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