Chaplin song silences U.K. charity girl

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Silence isn't always golden after all — at least not for Bethany Hare.

The 10-year-old budding actress' effort to raise money for a U.K. children's hospice through a homemade video has been dealt a setback by a copyright dispute with a New York-based publishing company that owns the rights to a song from a Charlie Chaplin movie.

It all started innocently enough last year when Bethany decided to make a Chaplin-style film using money she earned as an extra on the critically acclaimed British soap opera "Emmerdale."  She dressed up like the legendary silent-movie comic to star in her own video tribute.

The homemade film features Bethany singing the song "Smile," the theme from Chaplin's 1936 classic "Modern Times." (Lyrics were added to "Smile" in 1954 and it was originally sung by Nat King Cole.) The video was posted on the JustGiving website to raise money for Martin House, a children's hospice in Wetherby, West Yorkshire, England.

"I first heard ‘Smile’ when sitting with my Grandad on Christmas Day 2008. Grandad kept telling me that I was singing the song out of tune so I went away and secretly practised and practised," Bethany explains on the website.

"As ‘Smile’ was composed by Charlie Chaplin, I decided to dress up as Charlie, and also asked my dad to film me acting as Charlie, to play in the background.  I spent two days watching Charlie Chaplin on YouTube, watching his moves and also learning more about him.  After studying, I realised that he often is seen with a white flower and this inspired me more to make my short film."

The schoolgirl received free help from music arranger Phil Steel and the charity Sound Sense to film the video. She asked people who watched the video to pledge donations to Martin House.

Things were going well until New York-based Bourne Music Publishers, which owns the rights to the song, recently told Bethany and her parents to remove the clip.

After her mother, Yvonne, wrote to explain the background of the project, the publishers said Bethany could keep the song online for one year as long as the family paid a $2,000 fee and a further $250 every time she performs the song in public, the U.K. Daily Mail reported.

Bethany and her parents couldn't afford the fees, so Bethany decided to remove the words and music form her video and run it as a "silent movie" instead.

"Copyright permission for this little charity fundraising project never even entered our minds and we are just amazed that such a large company in New York would go to such extremes to dampen the efforts of such a lovely little girl," Bethany's mother told the Daily Mail.

A message on the JustGiving website explains: "Unfortunately, we were blissfully unaware about the need for a licence of any kind. Bethany has no savings left and will therefore not be able to afford any fees — we hope you will now appreciate a silent movie instead. (you could always sing 'Smile' to yourself as you watch the film - which is a lovely song and one which we are positive you will all know — in order to help you achieve the desired effect!)"

Despite the copyright problems, Bethany still hopes to reach her goal of raising £5,500 ($8,360) for Martin House. As of Wednesday she was about 43 percent of the way there.