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)
Reason's December issue celebrates the magazine's 50th anniversary with a series of commissioned pieces on the past and future of the magazine's subjects: freedom, markets, property rights, privacy and similar matters: I contributed a short story to the issue called Sole and Despotic Dominion, which takes the form of a support chat between a dishwasher […]
An Australian developer named Mark Watkins painstakingly reverse-engineered the proprietary data generated by Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machines and created Sleepyhead, a free/open piece of software that has become the go-to tool for thousands of sleep apnea sufferers around the world who want to tune their machines to stay healthy.
Denuvo bills itself as the best-of-breed in games DRM, the most uncrackable, tamper-proof wrapper for games companies; but its reputation tells a different story: the company's products are infamous for falling quickly to DRM crackers and for interfering with game-play until you crack the DRM off the products you buy.
Anyone can learn piano, but don’t tell that to the bored kids who had to endure hours of “Chopsticks” and similar drills in their music lessons. Today, there’s a better way. Pianoforall lets you jump right in to discover what makes music fun, leaving you eager to learn more. In a simple but innovative approach, […]
There are two times you never want to just “eyeball” it: Conducting brain surgery and matching shades of paint for your walls. Whether you’re painting or repainting, make sure you’re never just “close enough” to the color you want. Not when the Nix Mini Color Sensor can scan and match any color perfectly. Small enough […]
In photography as in film, all the real artistry is in post-production – increasingly so, with the new possibilities cropping up in digital imaging. If you’re ready to get serious about your photography, may we suggest HDR Projects 2018 Pro. As working photographers can tell you, this imaging software can help you re-imagine even the […]