Free at last?
February 9, 2016 7:19 PM   Subscribe

The world could be free to sing Happy Birthday without being sued by as early as next month.
posted by flapjax at midnite (32 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
The sad thing is, somebody is probably going to mock Warner/Chappell by making a 'parody' of the song in which all the lyrics are swearing and slurs, just because they can finally get away with it. And that's nothing compared to what people will make if Steamboat Willie ever enters the public domain.
posted by BiggerJ at 7:24 PM on February 9, 2016


And you smell like one too, Warner/Chappell
posted by saturday_morning at 7:28 PM on February 9, 2016 [7 favorites]


BiggerJ: "The sad thing is, somebody is probably going to mock Warner/Chappell by making a 'parody' of the song in which all the lyrics are swearing and slurs"

Maybe this is my inner 7-year-old speaking but I'm not sure why this is "sad" instead of "great"
posted by capricorn at 7:37 PM on February 9, 2016 [23 favorites]


Happy Fucking Birthday To You, Asshole
posted by capricorn at 7:37 PM on February 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


Aw, man. I hate hate hate singing happy birthday to people. I categorically refuse to do it, whether I'm alone or in a forcefully cheerful group that likes to sing at people. I'm often challenged on it and accused of being a spoilsport.

If this settlement goes through, my scowling response of "Sorry -- licensing issues, copyright stuff, intellectual property, don't want to break the law" won't get me off the hook nearly as often. :(
posted by mudpuppie at 7:37 PM on February 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


mudpuppie: Similarly, I refuse to wish anyone on Facebook a "Happy Birthday!" and also refuse to acknowledge any birthday greetings I receive. It's not spoilsporting, it's standing up for our right not to participate, dang it!
posted by yhbc at 7:43 PM on February 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


And that's nothing compared to what people will make if Steamboat Willie ever enters the public domain.

Thank God there are people in Disney working around the clock to ensure that will never happen.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 7:45 PM on February 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


All of the chain restaurants in the world will finally be able to retire their in-house alternative happy birthday songs and sing the real thing to unwilling guests when tipped off about their birthdays by perfidious dining companions!
posted by edheil at 8:36 PM on February 9, 2016 [7 favorites]


This is the perfect opportunity to share with you a fun hack for singing Happy Birthday well. Well, I call it a hack. It's more like a way of singing the song.

See, the problem is people sing Happy Birthday as if it were a funeral dirge. That's the problem. The solution I have discovered is to stop the song when it starts like this–stop it! STOP!–and then excitedly and happily explain that that's not how you sing 'Happy Birthday', you have to sing it with excitement. "C'mon! It's [person]'s birthday! Sing it like you mean it!"

And then lead the way in a cheering, rousing, and full-throated version of the happiest song on earth. I know it sounds cringe-inducing to some of us out there but let me share with you this simple truth:

Being present to pull this quick, goofy stunt and turn a forced and pained version of Happy Birthday into a hand-clapping, campaign rally, fun romp of a 10-second song–that's right, done right Happy Birthday is ten seconds long–has become one of the most fun things about being a grown-up I get to do on a regular basis. I've done it for friends, strangers, in restaurants, on busses, at kids parties, schools, churches, at office parties, and each and every time it is met with laughter and general good cheer. (While immediately met with what? We have to sing it again? Hee hee.)

What's not to like? It's happy birthday! It's how most of us want it sung to us. Sung as if it was genuinely meant. And the funny thing? For most of us who are singing it, we actually really do.

So step up next time, be happy, don't be mean, and get everyone jumpstarted on singing a really fun rendition of Happy Birthday.

Or feel free to ignore and suffer through another dirge. Or don't participate. But heads up. If I'm around and its your birthday, we're singing Happy Birthday like Jimmy Durante leading a parade singing When The Saints Come Marching In to a Boys & Girls Club rally to save the town pig named Wilbur who just had a spider weave the words "Happy Birthday" in a web above the barn running smack into into a remake of Coca Cola's I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing commercial starring Bette Midler, Stevie Wonder, and the Polyphonic Spree. Like we mean it!
posted by Mike Mongo at 8:37 PM on February 9, 2016 [38 favorites]


Mike - I do this all the time. Whenever the damn song starts, I jump in and set the tempo, as fast as possible. The general dirge version is awful. The fast version is bearable.
posted by greermahoney at 9:10 PM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


somebody is probably going to mock Warner/Chappell by making a 'parody' of the song in which all the lyrics are swearing and slurs

It's already begun; from a Guardian commenter called "squirrelhead:"

Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday dear everyone
Except for Warner/Chappell who can sod right off.

(c) squirrelhead 2016

posted by Johnny Wallflower at 9:50 PM on February 9, 2016 [12 favorites]


The slow dirge is great, if used for it's intended purpose, which is doubtlessly to allow someone to carefully walk into a dark room with selectively flaming cake.
posted by mrjohnmuller at 10:05 PM on February 9, 2016 [7 favorites]


I think the funeral version is generally quite appropriate. If you're over 35, it's merely a reminder that you are quite likely already on the downslope. Happy fucking birthday, sucker, one step nearer to the grave...

Fortunately, that singing in restaurants isn't done here. We seem to still have some respect for privacy. Or maybe it's because waitstaff don't have to humiliate themselves for tips, as they are paid a wage. Or that, quite correctly, somebody who would tip off restaurant staff of said birthday could expect having the "friendship" rightfully cancelled by the congratulee...

The obvious solution is, of course, just not telling anybody one's birth day. If asked, keep vague and change topic immediately (- When's your birthday, btw? - Oh, in summer. Hey, what did you do last summer?). Works quite well. Otherwise:

Stoopid fucking "improvised" birthday party. Ghastly cakes ordered by some colleague who can remember your birthday (once a year) but not that you're diabetic (every day of the year). Some horrendous gift (Oh, a crocheted tea cozy! That'll keep my espresso cup warm!). Witherin flowers, probably snatched from a graveyard. Co-workers who one despises (and vice versa) sneaking up and patting your back. The torture never stops.

All right, I'll get me coat.
posted by ojemine at 10:16 PM on February 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


At the Creature household we prefer to double-down on the dirge, singing as slowly and ponderously as possible, then holding the final note as we allow our individual voices to slide and slither to various inappropriate and cacophonous tones until all that is left is a single dissonant cloud of anguish and despair.

It is apocalypse.

It is beautiful.
posted by Doleful Creature at 10:32 PM on February 9, 2016 [18 favorites]


BiggerJ: "somebody is probably going to mock Warner/Chappell by making a 'parody' of the song in which all the lyrics are swearing and slurs, just because they can finally get away with it"

You always could make parody versions.
posted by Mitheral at 10:37 PM on February 9, 2016


I think the funeral version is generally quite appropriate. If you're over 35, it's merely a reminder that you are quite likely already on the downslope. Happy fucking birthday, sucker, one step nearer to the grave...

Works well with a stentorian bellow in a minor key.
posted by flabdablet at 10:48 PM on February 9, 2016


What's not to like? It's happy birthday!

No! Not Happy Birthday!

posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:21 PM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


I know someone who sings out "cha! cha! cha!" after every verse.

Well, he's ten years old.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 1:37 AM on February 10, 2016 [4 favorites]


"The world could be free..."

Don't mistake the US Supreme Court as a global court, or US copyright law as global law.
posted by blue_beetle at 3:29 AM on February 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday to you
You look like Warner/Chappell
And you smell like them too
posted by duffell at 3:54 AM on February 10, 2016


Don't mistake the US Supreme Court as a global court, or US copyright law as global law.

Indeed. We've been singing it here copyright-free for ages, thanks.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:34 AM on February 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


Don't mistake the US Supreme Court as a global court, or US copyright law as global law.

Or "this group doesn't own it" for "it's in the public domain". It's not—the lyrics post-date Mickey Mouse, so they'll likely be copyrighted forever. Warner/Chappell just aren't the owners.

But don't worry, another ownerbloodsucker has already emerged!
posted by atbash at 6:28 AM on February 10, 2016


I think the funeral version is generally quite appropriate. If you're over 35, it's merely a reminder that you are quite likely already on the downslope. Happy fucking birthday, sucker, one step nearer to the grave...

We don't really do Happy Birthday-singing around here, but a few years ago we did sing to my father-in-law, who reminded us that "this is not a dirge!," after which we reminded him of his age. So that all worked out.

A company I freelance with released and then recalled an album of Happies Birthday recently when someone up the chain got squeamish about it. I guess this means they'll be able to re-release it.
posted by uncleozzy at 6:31 AM on February 10, 2016


If you're doing a birthday dirge, do the Viking Birthday Dirge.
posted by leotrotsky at 6:36 AM on February 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


I still think the Futurama birthday song is best.
What day is today?
It's NAME's birthday.
What a day for a birthday!
Let's all have some cake.
posted by sp160n at 11:56 AM on February 10, 2016


"Thiiiiis....iiiiisssss...the....BIRTHDAY SONG! IT ISN'T VERY LONG!"

is my personal favourite Happy Birthday™ alternative, especially if you follow it up with:

"Thiiiiiss......is.....the....SECOND VERSE! IT'S SHORTER THAN THE".
posted by mrjohnmuller at 12:37 PM on February 10, 2016


Or this perennial favourite, also done at slow-dirge pace:

"Wooooaaaahh....Vagina.
Wooooaaaaahhh Vagina!
Wooooaaaahh.....Vagina,
that you sprang from!"
posted by mrjohnmuller at 12:41 PM on February 10, 2016


And that's nothing compared to what people will make if Steamboat Willie ever enters the public domain.

Like this?
posted by polecat at 12:55 PM on February 10, 2016


The slow dirge is because you’re singing with people who have no sense of timing and it’s giving them every chance to get somewhere near singing the same words at the same time as everyone else.
posted by bongo_x at 1:12 PM on February 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


Don't mistake the US Supreme Court as a global court, or US copyright law as global law.

There are so few media companies (especially widespread ones) that are beyond the reach of the DMCA etc (not to mention the armtwisted international conventions) that it is more effectively global law than much actual global law (treaties).
posted by anonymisc at 5:41 PM on February 10, 2016


That time on Sports Night where they discuss getting a bill for singing Happy Birthday on the air. Marty Sheinbaum!
Dan: Who holds the copyright to Happy Birthday?
Mallory: The representatives of Mildred and Patty Hill.
Dan: Mildred and Patty Hill.
Mallory: The authors.
Dan: The authors?
Mallory: They wrote it.
Dan: They wrote the song.
Mallory: Did you think that song just happened?
Dan: Well, yeah.
Mallory: Huh. Well, it didn't.
Yes, that's Yeardley Smith, better known for voicing Lisa Simpson.
posted by zachlipton at 8:27 PM on February 10, 2016


Parry Gripp's Discount Happy Birthday Song Medley, by the famous person responsible for Baby Monkey, Riding Backwards On A Pig. Anyway it's catchy and I sing it to my daughter and she rolls her eyes. Win!
posted by megafauna at 9:55 PM on February 12, 2016


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