Copyright scholars have long been pretty certain that "Happy Birthday to You" is in the public domain, despite the fact that Warner/Chappell claims copyright on it and charges impressive licensing fees to use it in public performances. Those fees, however, are much lower than a copyright lawsuit would be, so everyone shrugs and pays them. Until now.
A documentary film company working on a movie about "Happy Birthday" has assembled a huge body of evidence showing that the song has been in the public domain since the 1920s, and is suing Warner to get them to return the hundreds of millions they've improperly charged in licensing since. This is gonna be great.
The full lawsuit, embedded below, goes through a detailed history of the song and any possible copyright claims around it. It covers the basic history of "Good Morning to You," but also notes that the "happy birthday" lyrics appeared by 1901 at the latest, citing a January 1901 edition of Inland Educator and Indiana School Journal which describes children singing a song called "happy birthday to you." They also point to a 1907 book that uses a similar structure for a song called "good-bye to you" which also notes that you can sing "happy birthday to you" using the same music. In 1911, the full "lyrics" to Happy Birthday to You were published, with a notation that it's "sung to the same tune as 'Good Morning.'" There's much more in the history basically showing that the eventual copyright that Warner/Chappell holds is almost entirely unrelated to the song Happy Birthday to You.
The detail in the filing is impressive, and I can't wait to see how Warner/Chappell replies. As the filing notes, there are a variety of copyright claims around the song, but all are invalid or expired, and the very, very narrow copyright that Warner/Chappell might hold is not on the song itself. In other words, Warner/Chappell is almost certainly guilty of massive copyfraud -- perhaps the most massive in history -- in claiming a copyright it clearly has no right to.
Lawsuit Filed To Prove Happy Birthday Is In The Public Domain; Demands Warner Pay Back Millions Of License Fees [Mike Masnick/Techdirt]
(Image: 53/365 - 02/22/11 - Happy Birthday, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from shardayyy's photostream)
Every Ozimal digirabbit in the venerable virtual world Second Life will starve to death (well, permanent hibernation) this week because a legal threat has shut down their food-server, and the virtual pets are designed so that they can only eat DRM-locked food, so the official food server’s shutdown has doomed them all.
Netflix has become one of the main forces for DRM in the world, a driver behind the W3C’s dangerous, web-scale DRM project, and now they’ve announced that their app will no longer run on rooted/bootloader unlocked Android devices, because these devices can run code that overrides Google Widevine DRM (Widevine doesn’t work well under the […]
Today, activists will gather in Cambridge, Mass to march to the offices of W3C Director Tim Berners-Lee to urge him to keep DRM out of the standards for the open web.
Yes, yes there is. The ultraportable Twisty Glass Mini boasts all of the simplicity of its forebear, while fitting just a little bit better in your pocket.The Mini is perfect for casual smokers, and anyone who doesn’t have the patience or fine motor skill for rolling papers. This piece keeps the convenient design of its older […]
Learning to code is a perfect way to grow your technical sophistication, and open up a host of new career options. But since most “learn to code” initiatives focus heavily on web development, it can be tough to find good resources for general-purpose computer science outside of a 4-year degree program. To get a broad […]
While many newer smartphones boast decent water resistance, most of us are still stuck with the kind of handsets that need to spend the night in a bowl of rice when they get wet. If you want to enjoy your favorite podcasts in the shower but are holding out for your next phone upgrade, this […]