I've just started reading the free Creative Commons licensed PDF of "Freedom of Expression(R): Overzealous Copyright Bozos and Other Enemies of Creativity," a good, easy-to-read book on the copyfight by Kembrew McLeod, a university prof. It's very sharp — I just read the chapter on how Happy Birthday To You ended up belonging to Time-Warner, a hair-raising and vile little story that should be required reading for everyone who argues that copyright is here to serve creators:
Roy Harris,a twentieth-century composer ofclassical music,got into trouble when he used part ofthe song in his "Symphonic Dedication," which honored the birthday of another American composer, Howard Hanson. Variety reported, "Keeping the occasion in mind, Harris brought his composition to a climax with a modern treatment of'Happy Birthday.' After Harris' piece had been introduced by the Boston Symphony he was compelled by the copyright owners to delete the 'Happy Birthday' passage from his score." P.D.Q. Bach, the "Weird Al" Yankovic of the classical-music world, avoided using any strains of "Happy Birthday to You" in a birthday ode to his father because he was afraid of being sued. Instead, he based it on a traditional German birthday song.Even Igor Stravinsky was slapped on the wrist when he cited a few bars of "Happy Birthday to You" in one of his symphonic fanfares (the composer reportedly assumed it was an old folk tune).