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Super Oops: Why the Snyder Cut of Justice League was Removed from HBO

If you’re a DC Comics fan anxiously awaiting the release of the controversial ‘Snyder Cut’ of Justice League, then you’re likely aware the first epic trailer has been pulled from YouTube and other video or streaming services … and it appears a licensing wrangle serves as the super villain in the plot.

While there’s been no official explanation, it appears the trailer was removed due to a licensing issue with the background song ‘Hallelujah’, written by Canadian poet/singer Leonard Cohen, and owned by Columbia Records … and it’s a perfect example of why proper licensing agreements are so vital.

For non-DC fans, the Snyder Cut is a new version of the Justice League movie that Zack Snyder was directing until he stepped away after the tragic death of his daughter. 

The studio hired Joss Whedon – who helmed the incredibly successful Avengers movie – to finish the film, and that’s where the entire saga began. 

Whedon and many studio execs didn’t agree with the dark and gritty approach Snyder was taking to Justice League, and so the film was substantially reshot with new scenes. Justice League was later reduced to mixed reviews, with negative reviews flooding in from JL fans who were expecting a grittier treatment a la Snyder, who also directed The Watchmen and Batman vs Superman. To be fair, other DC fans preferred the lighter, funnier approach taken under Whedon, but the change did touch off a massive wave of fan pressure to see the original concept.

After literally years of fan pressure DC and Warner Bros. Pictures agreed to the idea of a Snyder Cut, and the alternate version of the story is slated to become a four-hour miniseries on HBO Max. 

That naturally sent the Snyder fans into a frenzy, and they were gratified in August when the trailer dropped at DC FanDome in August. Then the bomb dropped over the weekend when the trailer disappeared from YouTube and other social media. It was Aaron Couch, a writer for The Hollywood Reporter, who revealed the issue with music licensing rights, tweeting, “HBO Max has removed August’s trailer for Zack Snyder’s Justice League over music rights issues, but it will likely go back up on YouTube once the issue is resolved.”

While it’s surprising a Hollywood director, a movie studio and a TV network would fumble something as basic as a music licensing agreement, Snyder has a deep history with the song that obviously influenced him into using it as the trailer soundtrack for a film he is emotionally invested in. 

Cohen himself died in 2016, and the song Hallelujah subsequently hit the Billboard charts again in 2016-2017. Snyder’s daughter Autumn Snyder died in 2017, leading Snyder to step away from the film, and he has since referenced why Cohen’s emotional song was the right choice for him. 

During a podcast interview on Reel in Motion Snyder said, “It (Hallelujah) was on two years ago … it’s a really personal song for the family, and for all of us. It’s something that I just felt was right for this. That’s why. I just think that that song, in particular, really, for all of us, it has significance beyond just the movie. I think we all love the song and it just felt like, as I was trying to wrangle this whole thing into the ‘why’ of it, I just felt like that song was the right way to do it.”

Most fans seem to agree Hallelujah is the right choice of song, but the licensing issue still has to be addressed for a property that has seen huge demand from music artists and film producers alike. The 1984 song has been covered hundreds of times, most notably by John Cale, Allison Crowe and Jeff Bucklely, and the version sung by fellow Canadian Rufus Wainwright became a huge hit after appearing on the Shrek soundtrack. 

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