Feel free to sing "Happy Birthday"
September 22, 2015 9:41 PM   Subscribe

 
Well, now I don't want to anymore.
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:47 PM on September 22, 2015 [16 favorites]


But... it's not my birthday.
posted by gideonswann at 9:49 PM on September 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


They say it's your birthday...
posted by blue_beetle at 9:55 PM on September 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


Someone alert Marty Sheinbaum!
posted by rewil at 10:01 PM on September 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


On the one hand... yay? On the other hand, I can't believe this is even a thing. Our entire culture is complete nonsense.
posted by zjacreman at 10:04 PM on September 22, 2015 [12 favorites]


Our long national nightmare is over.
posted by pmurray63 at 10:05 PM on September 22, 2015 [21 favorites]


Coincidentally "Our long national nightmare is ooooo-veeeer" is how we sang the third line in my house.
posted by No-sword at 10:09 PM on September 22, 2015 [29 favorites]


Who has the copyright on the "you smell like a monkey and you look like one too" version? If that is cleared, my 6 year old self just breathed a sigh of relief.
posted by AugustWest at 10:11 PM on September 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


Jeremih should make Birthday Sex public domain in solidarity.
posted by sparkletone at 10:14 PM on September 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


But I just finished memorizing the lyrics for Applebee's version!
posted by downtohisturtles at 10:20 PM on September 22, 2015


Bennigans song 4 EVA

Happy happy birthday, on this your special day,
Happy happy birthday is what we're here to say.
Hey!
Happy happy birthday, may all your dreams come true,
Happy happy birthday, from Bennigans to you.
Hey!

Can I get you something to nibble on? Some Pizza Shooters, Shrimp Poppers or Extreme Fajitas?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:24 PM on September 22, 2015 [10 favorites]


Would the "you smell like a monkey" version qualify as a parody, and therefore be protected by fair use? Or does copying the melody verbatim make it still a violation? I can't keep track of which intangible rights apply to which intangible goods. At least when you buy the deed to, say, a house you didn't personally build, you now have physical control over that house. With song copyrights, you buy the rights and get... the government's promise to extort money in your name?
posted by Rangi at 10:28 PM on September 22, 2015


sound opinions on happy birthday :P cheers!
posted by kliuless at 10:40 PM on September 22, 2015


Wow. And a week before I hit a Milestone Birthday (of the "now you're really getting OLD variety").

Still, THIS is the way that I choose to sing it, even if I have to toss a few cents at Sandra Boynton every time I do.
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:42 PM on September 22, 2015 [1 favorite]




So do they now have to pay back all the royalties they collected on a song they never actually owned?
posted by cosmic.osmo at 10:43 PM on September 22, 2015 [4 favorites]




Feel free to sing "Happy Birthday"

Would I be admitting to a checkered past if I admit I already did?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:49 PM on September 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


It seems to absurd that this song should be under copyright. So absurd there was a Kids in the Hall sketch in which a birthday song was sung. I just assumed they had a different song up in Canada and often wondered how the rest of it went.
posted by munchingzombie at 10:50 PM on September 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


Wow. And a week before I hit a Milestone Birthday (of the "now you're really getting OLD variety").

Hey, you're hitting 70! Congrats!!

(early than that is not old, 40-50's = middle age, 60's= getting old, 70-80=old, 80+ elderly).*

*I made the old=70 rule when I was a teenager. One of the smartest things I did as a teen.
posted by el io at 10:54 PM on September 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


in that case, el io, please drop the "really" from my previous comment... I'd hate people to think I was conceived and born while my father was still stationed overseas... still, I'm FEELING the "really".
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:01 PM on September 22, 2015


On my 50th birthday!
posted by nicwolff at 11:25 PM on September 22, 2015 [15 favorites]


So do they now have to pay back all the royalties they collected on a song they never actually owned?

I hope not. For many years, the Linguistics Society of America was funded by some of the royalties from this song, donated by its president Archibald A. Hill. Professor Hill was Mildred and Patty's nephew.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 11:59 PM on September 22, 2015 [2 favorites]




I think it's great that people are free to sing this song, but frankly it's always sounded like a dirge to me. My friends and I have a much happier song to sing to acknowledge our anniversaries.
posted by trip and a half at 12:54 AM on September 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well now, it's good to see that when Hollywood studios flush with cash are inconvenienced by the maximalist copyright regime they installed, that they can overturn one of the most egregious examples of its chilling pressure on free expression.

Golf clap.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 1:14 AM on September 23, 2015 [9 favorites]


I'm a little sad I can't find any good online way to post a link here to Dr. Seuss' excellent song "Happy Birthday To Little Sally Spingle Spungle Sporn". That's probably my favorite birthday song.

But I'm very very glad that this is out of copyright.

Now, the question is... is the ruling worded in such a way that those who have paid to use the song over the past decades going to be able to sue to reclaim the now-determined-to-be-fraudulant fees?
posted by hippybear at 1:26 AM on September 23, 2015


Zum Geburtstag viel Glueck
Zum Geburtstag viel Glueck
Zum Geburtstag, lieber nicwollf,
Zum Geburtstag viel Glueck
posted by Hairy Lobster at 1:50 AM on September 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


And suddenly, thanks to Hairy Lobster, I'm back in 11th grade German class with Frau Small.
posted by hippybear at 2:09 AM on September 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Richard Cheese's New Birthday Song just lost its raison d'être.
posted by dhens at 2:27 AM on September 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Judge George H. King is a jolly good fellow.
posted by Faint of Butt at 2:31 AM on September 23, 2015


Possibly won't have to pay back the money - the (few) IP related contracts I've seen have included clauses to the effect that 'if our rights to the IP you're licensing prove invalid in the future, we keep the money'.

IANAL, this was in the UK, the IP wasn't musical, I don't know whether this has been tested in court, etc.
posted by Devonian at 3:42 AM on September 23, 2015


While this totally deserved to be fixed ages ago, I still like the idea of restaurants having to come up with their own original birthday songs.
posted by p3t3 at 3:42 AM on September 23, 2015


> So do they now have to pay back all the royalties they collected on a song they never actually owned?

The Washington Post says they can, but will have to sue to get it.

What worries me is the Billboard article doesn't say that the song is public domain, but that it "should be granted a summary judgment". I'm not sure what that means: that the case is over, or just that it's probably over bar months of appeals.
posted by ardgedee at 3:55 AM on September 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


XKCD gets in on the fun.
posted by noneuclidean at 4:04 AM on September 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm so caught up in the fact it is MY BIRTHDAY TOO I don't even have an opinion on the copyright issue (as I usually would),
posted by NorthernLite at 4:33 AM on September 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


So do they now have to pay back all the royalties they collected on a song they never actually owned?

From TFA:
Among other things, the plaintiffs represented by attorneys including Randall Newman and Mark Rifkin are contending that Warner should have to return millions of dollars in licensing fees.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:43 AM on September 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


For the question of back-royalties, the court specifically split the claim on that point; resolve copyright first, then go back to see whether back-royalties are due. This is only the first half, though the second was necessarily dependent on it.
posted by mystyk at 5:02 AM on September 23, 2015


Among other things, the plaintiffs represented by attorneys including Randall Newman and Mark Rifkin are contending that Warner should have to return millions of dollars in licensing fees.

Maybe someone with a better understanding of copyright law can jump in here and correct me, but I read the ruling to state that the lyrics are public domain and that only the melody is privately owned. In which case, unless they either used really bad singers or sung the lyrics to a different tune, wouldn't the plaintiffs have still violated the copyright?
posted by dances with hamsters at 5:13 AM on September 23, 2015


The copyright status of the melody ("Good Morning to All") is not in dispute. It was composed before 1893 and thus in the public domain no matter how you slice it.
posted by Mothlight at 5:44 AM on September 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


The ruling is here.
posted by Mothlight at 5:46 AM on September 23, 2015


What day is today?
Happy Birthday's okay!
What a day for a birthday!
It's public domain!

(Let's all have some cake.)
posted by ilana at 6:32 AM on September 23, 2015 [7 favorites]


[Sounds of muffled gobbling, followed by a loud belch]
posted by Existential Dread at 6:51 AM on September 23, 2015


Sports Night did an episode about this long ago.
posted by chaiminda at 6:58 AM on September 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Hooray!
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 6:59 AM on September 23, 2015


From the Hacker News discussion, someone pointed out this part of the judgement:

"Because Summy Co. never acquired the rights to the Happy Birthday lyrics, Defendants, as Summy Co.'s purported successors-in-interest, do not own a valid copyright in the Happy Birthday lyrics"

This suggests it's an orphaned work, but still has a valid copyright and is not public domain. Someone with a better claim could still take control of the copyright.

That notwithstanding, the lawyers here intend to go class-action and sue Warner/Chappell to return the royalties they've collected.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 7:13 AM on September 23, 2015


My friends and I have a much happier song to sing to acknowledge our anniversaries.

... Go on.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:14 AM on September 23, 2015




I'll shamelessly reuse my comment from somewhere else [1]: Too bad “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead" is probably still under copyright.

[1] Hey, I do own the copyright to the comment after all.
posted by seyirci at 8:31 AM on September 23, 2015


The copyright status of the melody ("Good Morning to All") is not in dispute. It was composed before 1893 and thus in the public domain no matter how you slice it.

So this is turtles all the way down?

The Hill Sisters sold a melody the didn't compose to a music publisher. Warner/Chappell's entire case is based on that, and it's taken how long to actually get this before a judge? And this isn't even what the summary judgement is about?
posted by thecjm at 8:36 AM on September 23, 2015


But... it's not my birthday.

Well then, A Very Merry Unbirthday To You!

© 1951 Walt Disney Productions
posted by radwolf76 at 9:13 AM on September 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


This suggests it's an orphaned work, but still has a valid copyright and is not public domain. Someone with a better claim could still take control of the copyright.

According to this Wikipedia article:
Works published before 1964 in the US are all in the public domain, excepting only those for which a renewal was registered with the US copyright office. Relatively few works from this era have had their copyrights renewed.
IANAL, but wouldn't it still be in the public domain unless the true owner had renewed the copyright with the copyright office decades ago? I would imagine that something like that would have required litigation at the time and would be known.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 12:13 PM on September 23, 2015


The Hill Sisters sold a melody the didn't compose to a music publisher. Warner/Chappell's entire case is based on that, and it's taken how long to actually get this before a judge? And this isn't even what the summary judgement is about?

The Hill Sisters did compose the melody. They just composed it sometime between 1889 and 1893. Much later, in a 1935 lawsuit, Patty Hill first claimed to have written the "Happy Birthday" lyrics. The problem is that those "Happy Birthday" lyrics had already been published elsewhere, with no credit given to Patty, in the 1920s and 1930s. In fact, a couple of the publications credited someone else with writing them. That indicates that decades went by without the Hill Sisters asserting authorship of the lyrics. This is bad for Warner Chappell, which bears the burden of proof of authorship.

Moreover, the judge found that rights to the lyrics were never explicitly assigned to the music publisher. The melody and derivative piano arrangements, yes, but not the lyrics. So the judge found that even if the Hill Sisters did have a copyright on those lyrics (a big if), they never actually transferred those rights to the music publisher.

That's how I read the decision, anyway. The judge's conclusion, on page 42, boils down the issues. It'll be interesting to see what happens on appeal.
posted by Mothlight at 12:40 PM on September 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


> (early than that is not old, 40-50's = middle age, 60's= getting old, 70-80=old, 80+ elderly).

My mom rarely gets indignant about anything, but a couple of years ago she read a story in her hometown paper about a man who was the same age as her. The article referred to him as "elderly," and she did not care for that. One. Bit.
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:49 PM on September 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


(previously)
posted by XMLicious at 2:45 PM on September 23, 2015




Some long ago day camp doggerel kept us from copyright prison:

Happy birthday to you
You belong in a zoo
With the monkeys and the zebras
and the kinkajous too.
posted by Chitownfats at 5:58 PM on September 23, 2015


I love how one of the lawyers is named Randy Newman
posted by ericbop at 9:52 AM on September 24, 2015


What, nobody? Okay fine (Binky the Clown singing Happy Birthday Whoop-de-do)

I THOUGHT YOU'D NEVER GET HERE
posted by JHarris at 10:47 AM on September 24, 2015


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