Winner of copyright-free birthday song contest

The winner is “It’s your Birthday!” by Monk Turner and Fascinoma.

The “Happy Birthday To You” melody was published in the late 1800s by two sisters who taught elementary school, and it was registered for copyright, as “Happy Birthday To You” in 1935. Time Warner acquired the copyright in 1998. The song reportedly brings in two million dollars a year from licensing for films, TV shows, advertisements and the like; it won’t enter the public domain until 2030 at the earliest.

Laughing Squid: New Copyright-Free Happy Birthday Song Selected


    1. Lame doesn’t begin to describe it.  It’s as if I were getting a colonoscopy ON MY BIRTHDAY!!!!!

      I think I made it through about four bars before I had to hit the BACK button.

    2. That song makes my soul hurt.  Why don’t we just repurpose the 16th century We Wish You a Merry Christmas?

      We wish you a happy birthday!
      We wish you a happy birthday!
      We wish you a happy birthday
      And a fuck-ton of gifts!

      Great presents we bring!
      Scotch, vodka and gin!
      We wish you a happy birthday
      And a fuck-ton of gifts!

      Now bring us some blow and hookers!
      Now bring us some blow and hookers!
      Now bring us some blow and hookers
      and show us your tits!


  1. While I appreciate the effort, if they were actually trying to write a song to take the place of the Birthday Song as we know it, they’ve failed. It has to be short (under 30 seconds – max), easy to remember, catchy, recognizable without any instrumentation, and bonus points if you can personalize it with the name of the birthday person. What they have here is a noble effort, but it falls short in just about every way that made the original birthday song a staple. Sorry guys.

    1. Very nicely put.  I was just going to note that it needs to be a quick-paced song.  Self conscious, tone-deaf people like me are OK with mumbling “huhhh birday to yerrr”, but not comfortable singing those long sustained notes.

      1.  Yea it sounds far too melancholy for a celebratory song. Also, the focus on the line, “it’s your birthday”, make it a little weird to sing if you happen to be celebrating on a day other than your actual birthday.

        1. The results were disappointing overall, exactly as you say. The second place winner is the only one I personally could even attempt to sing, but even that was so close to the original song that it’d just be confusing to try and remember it. And, curiously the third place winner seemed to be accepted after the deadline, suddenly appearing on the site. 

          My wife had an entry there, which I thought was perfect, though it probably failed the grade because it used the word gay in its ‘classical’ meaning:

          Maybe we should hand it to the LGBT community. 

  2. I’m quite fond of Futurama’s version:

    What day is today?
    It’s Leela’s birthday!
    What a day for a birthday,
    Let’s all have some cake.

    1. I like the NoFX version (not PD, but I’d rather pay them than TW):

      Happy birthday, you’re not special.
      Everybody thinks you’re an a******.
      We just want to embarrass you.
      That’s why we’re singing this song.
      So happy f***ing birthday, you f***ing a******.

  3. Centuries from now, archaeologists will theorize that the singing of “Happy Birthday to You” was a ceremony of profound religious significance that could only be recorded by heretics or by those willing to provide large sacrifices to the High Priests.

  4. The EFF folks did some research and say that the copyright wasn’t renewed properly and that Happy Birthday has a bunch of reasons to be in public domain (especially the tune, Good Morning To All, which is several decades pre-Disney.)

    Of course, for the science fiction crowd, the Mongol Hordes Birthday Song tends to be more popular, though I really like the Dutch birthday song

    1. I really like the Dutch birthday song

      After hearing that, I have a sudden urge to conquer some territory for the glorious fatherland.

    2.  I remember reading somewhere else that the melody (originally titled Good Morning To You) is Public Domain, and it’s only the lyrics for Happy Birthday that have even the vaguest copyright assertions

  5. In Québec, they don’t sing ‘Happy Birthday’ or ‘Bonne Fête’.

    Rather they sing a modified version of the refrain from Gens du Pays (the unofficial QC National Anthem) replacing the words with, for example, “Mon cher Mark, c’est à ton tour de te laisser parler d’amour!”. 

    The translation might be:
    “My dear Mark, it’s now your turn to allow yourself to speak of love” or
    “My dear Mark, it’s now your turn to allow yourself to be spoken to about love”.
    It could be translated either way.

    I wish this tradition would spread to be the rest of the country.

    1. I think their needs to be a little more water under the bridge before Anglo-Canadians can bring themselves to forget 1980 and 1995, and the associations Gens du Pays has.

      1.  Actually, it’d be subversive.  By using Gens du Pays in this everyday fashion, the rest of Canada would disarm it a little and reverse-co-opt it.

  6. What a depressing little tune!
    A really, REALLY bad song. 
    Destined for oblivion before I even log into BB.  

    And those are my poooooo-sitive cooooom-ments.

  7. I’ve always had a soft spot for the “It Must Be Somebody’s Birthday”  by the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players:

    In fact, I’m surprised the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players haven’t ever been on BB except as a comment from 2006!

  8. The winners offered an instrumental version, and a version of the song in the key of C:

  9. How is “Happy Birthday” making any money at all, considering that every movie and TV show and chain restaurant ever go out of their way to avoid using it? 

  10. Forget the new song – would someone from EFF please explain to me how a song that was written and sung in the 19th century (Public Domain?) was then copyrighted 40 years later?  As far as the copyright – a 1935 registration would have only been protected through 1970 (the EFF says it wasn’t properly renewed).  At the bottom of all this is the fact that copyright’s original intent was to protect the intellectual property of the authors and after their death their families.  SO… how did we get to the point where a huge entertainment conglomerate can own the exclusive rights to a part of American Culture created in the 1800’s with a recent profit of two million dollars?  And by the way – how much money did the authors ever see out of their work?

  11.  Don’t forget that there are in total more than 100 other birthday songs you can equally use on the contest page:

    In the end, the winners don’t get more than some recognition from the handful judges who voted.  There are others that I personally prefer like this one for example:

  12. As the narrator states,  “It puts the “happy” back into birthday” 

    Providing one exceeds their daily dosage of Prozac

  13. I used to work out a gym in Atlanta that had a mostly African American clientelle. The sound system in the locker rooms was tuned to a local music station that played hip hop, R&B, etc. I worked out about the time this station read their list of listeners celebrating birthdays. Then they played their special birthday song, which was a rap that went:

    ToDAY IS a SPECial day
    ToDAY’s your BIRTHday!
    ToDAY’s your BIRTHday!

    and I don’t remember the rest of it but that first part was so damn catchy, and it was joyful and corny and funny. Even today when it’s someone’s birthday I’m always rapping that out. I googled to see if there was a recording anywhere but I guess they don’t do it anymore and that was before the interwebs was a thing normal folks did.

  14. Happy Effin Birthday Dude,
    Happy Effin Birthday Dude,
    Happy Effin Birthday Dude,
    Now give me some cake!

    And now to send some year old, moldy cake to Time Warner.

  15. Mark my words: No copyrighted song will enter the public domain in America in 2030. Between now and then, copyright holders will successfully lobby Congress for yet another retrospective extension of copyright, thus depriving the American people of yet another slice of the benefit that is due to the people under the agreement by which they granted the copyright in the first place.

    A copyright is a contract between the content-creator and the people whereby the people give the creator a monopoly for a limited time, in return for a work which will enter the public domain at the end of that time. But copyright holders have no intention of keeping their side of the bargain. Having been granted the right to milk the back-catalog for a limited time, they intend to keep milking it forever.

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