Happy Birthday Lawsuit
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Happy Birthday Lawsuit


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Monique 14 Jun 13 - 04:48 AM
Joe Offer 14 Jun 13 - 04:50 AM
Monique 14 Jun 13 - 05:48 AM
MorwenEdhelwen1 14 Jun 13 - 07:25 AM
Richard Bridge 14 Jun 13 - 07:40 AM
kendall 14 Jun 13 - 08:28 AM
gnu 14 Jun 13 - 06:46 PM
Ron Davies 15 Jun 13 - 01:02 AM
Ron Davies 15 Jun 13 - 01:11 AM
Richard Mellish 15 Jun 13 - 05:18 AM
Richard Mellish 15 Jun 13 - 05:18 AM
Ron Davies 15 Jun 13 - 09:01 AM
GUEST,John Foxen 15 Jun 13 - 09:04 AM
OldPossum 23 Sep 15 - 02:44 AM
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Subject: Happy Birthday Lawsuit
From: Monique
Date: 14 Jun 13 - 04:48 AM

Here we go!

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Subject: RE: Happy Birthday Lawsuit
From: Joe Offer
Date: 14 Jun 13 - 04:50 AM

So, Monique, do you have anything to say about this?

Seems to me that copyright protection extends back a ridiculouly long time. "Happy Birthday" is part of U.S. culture - shouldn't it be in Public Domain for that reason?
-Joe, who hates threads that begin with a mere link-
(you are allowed to copy and paste, and to express opinions, you know)

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Subject: RE: Happy Birthday Lawsuit
From: Monique
Date: 14 Jun 13 - 05:48 AM

So... here's a short excerpt...
Lawsuit Filed To Prove Happy Birthday Is In The Public Domain; Demands Warner Pay Back Millions Of License Fees
from the about-time dept
Happy Birthday remains the most profitable song ever. Every year, it is the song that earns the highest royalty rates, sent to Warner/Chappell Music (which makes millions per year from "licensing" the song). However, as we've been pointing out for years, the song is almost certainly in the public domain. Robert Brauneis did some fantastic work a few years ago laying out why the song's copyright clearly expired many years ago, even as Warner/Chappell pretends otherwise. You can read all the background, but there are a large number of problems with the copyright, including that the sisters who "wrote" the song, appear to have written neither the music, nor the lyrics. At best, they may have written a similar song called "Good Morning to All" in 1893, with the same basic melody, but there's evidence to suggest the melody itself predated the sisters. But, more importantly, the owner of the copyright (already questionable) failed to properly renew it in 1962, which would further establish that it's in the public domain.

The issue, as we've noted, is that it's just not cost effective for anyone to actually stand up and challenge Warner Music, who has strong financial incentive to pretend the copyright is still valid. Well, apparently, someone is pissed off enough to try. The creatively named Good Morning to You Productions, a documentary film company planning a film about the song Happy Birthday, has now filed a lawsuit concerning the copyright of Happy Birthday and are seeking to force Warner/Chappell to return the millions of dollars it has collected over the years. That's going to make this an interesting case.

    More than 120 years after the melody to which the simple lyrics of Happy Birthday to You is set was first published, defendant Warner/Chappell boldly, but wrongfully and unlawfully, insists that it owns the copyright to Happy Birthday to You, and with that copyright the exclusive right to authorize the song's reproduction, distribution, and public performances pursuant to federal copyright law. Defendant Warner/Chappell either has silenced those wishing to record or perform Happy Birthday to You or has extracted millions of dollars in unlawful licensing fees from those unwilling or unable to challenge its ownership claims.

    Irrefutable documentary evidence, some dating back to 1893, s hows that the copyright to Happy Birthday to You, if there ever was a valid copyright to any part of the song expired no later than 1921 and that if defendant Warner/Chappell owns any rights to Happy Birthday to You, those rights are limited to the extremely narrow right to reproduce and distribute specific piano arrangements for the song published in 1935. Significantly, no court has ever adjudicated the validity or scope of the defendant's claimed interest in Happy Birthday to You, nor in the song's melody or lyrics, which are themselves independent works.

    Plaintiff GMTY, on behalf of itself and all others similarly situated, seeks a declaration that Happy Birthday to You is dedicated to public use and is in the public domain as well as monetary damages and restitution of all the unlawful licensing fees that defendant Warner/Chappell improperly collected from GMTY and all other Class members.

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.

There is much more to read at the link above, including the full text of the lawsuit. The documents provided by the plaintiff show that Happy Birthday to You should be in the public domain for ages.
My opinion... someone starts with a good and fair idea, then here come fat cats with mean and twisted minds and they screw it all, the poor guy who had the good idea first included. This is a perfect example and IMO it's how our world works and why it takes so long to improve it. Et voilà!

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Subject: RE: Happy Birthday Lawsuit
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 14 Jun 13 - 07:25 AM


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Subject: RE: Happy Birthday Lawsuit
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 14 Jun 13 - 07:40 AM

I haven't read the whole filing but I like the thrust. It isn't the only example of US copyright malpractice but the whole US copyright system is pretty crappy, compared to the basics of Berne and UK copyright law (although some UK and French detail is pretty fucked up too)

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Subject: RE: Happy Birthday Lawsuit
From: kendall
Date: 14 Jun 13 - 08:28 AM

What about Auld Lang Syne? and Amazing Grace?

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Subject: RE: Happy Birthday Lawsuit
From: gnu
Date: 14 Jun 13 - 06:46 PM

K... I am sure Grace would be rather peeved.

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Subject: RE: Happy Birthday Lawsuit
From: Ron Davies
Date: 15 Jun 13 - 01:02 AM

This will be fascinating to watch. Hope somebody keeps us up with developments if it doesn't seem big enough news to make headlines and we miss it.

From whom does Warner now get royalties? Not most families.   Schools?    Businesses? Government (the miitary, for instance)?

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Subject: RE: Happy Birthday Lawsuit
From: Ron Davies
Date: 15 Jun 13 - 01:11 AM

So I did a tiny bit of research.   Answer seems to be: Warner is to be paid for any public performance of the song, but rarely tries to enforce it at family gatherings, even in public.

But there are still questions; for instance those aspects I brought up above--e.g., does the military or the federal government pay for the song's use in day care centers? I can't imagine they do.

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Subject: RE: Happy Birthday Lawsuit
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 15 Jun 13 - 05:18 AM

At my 60th birthday party I gave notice that I would leave if anyone sang this song. I am sick of hearing its crude tune and over-repetitious words, and I will flee a room with my fingers in my ears to avoid hearing it. To make it even sillier, people will join in even if they don't know whose birthday is being celebrated, so there's an abrupt reduction of volume when the name is reached.

I would be delighted if someone's copyright prevented it from being sung.

There are much better birthday songs, for example the Swedish one (which I'm afraid I don't know so can't quote here).


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Subject: RE: Happy Birthday Lawsuit
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 15 Jun 13 - 05:18 AM

PS Now runs and hides in bomb shelter.

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Subject: RE: Happy Birthday Lawsuit
From: Ron Davies
Date: 15 Jun 13 - 09:01 AM

As you might possibly know, they sing it as a mark of affection. Most people can live with that. Maybe some can't.

But certainly folkies have lots of other alternatives:   we usually do "Why Was He (She) Born So Beautiful?" and/or "Volga Birthday".

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Subject: RE: Happy Birthday Lawsuit
From: GUEST,John Foxen
Date: 15 Jun 13 - 09:04 AM

The best weapon to use against greedy corporate giants is ridicule, as Groucho Marx did with Warner Brothers. Here's the Wikipedia version of the story surrounding the Marx Brothers film A Night In Casablanca:
A popular myth (spread in part by Groucho himself) surrounding the movie is that the Marx Brothers were threatened with a lawsuit by Warner Bros. for the use of the word "Casablanca" in the title, it being an infringement on the company's rights to the 1942 film Casablanca. Groucho responded with a letter asserting that he and his siblings had use of the word "brothers" prior to the establishment of Warner Brothers (and many others had before that), and often the story is told that Groucho threatened a counter-suit based on this assertion. He also mentioned that he would consider further legal action by pointing out to Warners that the title of their current hit film Night and Day infringed on the titles of two Marx Brothers films; A Night at the Opera and A Day at the Races.
The true story is that the original storyline for the Marx film was intended to be a direct parody of Casablanca, with the characters having similar sounding names to the characters and actors in the 1942 film. Groucho Marx has said that an early draft named his character "Humphrey Bogus", a reference to the leading actor in Casablanca, Humphrey Bogart. Warner Bros. did not actually litigate, or even threaten to litigate, but it did issue a formal inquiry to the Marx Brothers concerning the plot and script of the film.
The Marx Brothers exploited the situation for publicity, making it appear to the public that a frivolous lawsuit was in the works, and Groucho sent several open letters to Warner Bros. to get newspaper coverage. These letters were among those he donated to the Library of Congress, and he reprinted them in his book The Groucho Letters, which he published in 1967.
In the end, the matter died without legal action, and the storyline of the film was changed to be a send-up of the genre rather than Casablanca specifically. Warner Bros. now owns the distribution rights to this film via Castle Hill Productions.

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Subject: RE: Happy Birthday Lawsuit
From: OldPossum
Date: 23 Sep 15 - 02:44 AM

Judge frees Happy Birthday song from copyright claims

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