Well, this is interesting: Happy Birthday to You: The Lawsuit. Someone has launched a class action lawsuit against Warner/Chappel Music Inc who (apparently) own the rights to the tune. In addition to wanting the song declared i”n the public domain”, the plaintiffs are seeking the return of “millions of dollars” gathered from licensing fees over the years. Over the many, many years.
For those who don’t know (like, say, myself until I read the article), the melody was first published more than a 120 years ago as “Good Morning To All”. At some point, John Q. Public switched out the lyrics to ones we are familiar with today – and has been singing it ever since. And paying licensing fees if they’ve been doing so on film, television, the stage or, technically, restaurants, parks, and daycare centers. Check out this delightful site that clearly delineates the legalities/illegalities of performing the song: http://www.unhappybirthday.com/. “If you have seen someone singing Happy Birthday in a restaurant, a park, or at a school, you should tell ASCAP so that they can arrange for a license. If you are an offender, you should apologize and offer to pay whatever is due — a nickel, a quarter, a dollar — whatever ASCAP demands.There is an overwhelming amount of copyright infringement of Happy Birthday. Let’s right the balance and tell ASCAP about every one of these violations!”
Yeah! Let’s right the balance! Who do those five year olds think they are, taking money out of Warner Music Group’s pocket?!
Hahaha. But, seriously, no one is actually going to get sued or threatened with a lawsuit for singing the song are they? Well, yest: Happy Birthday to You, Happy Birthday We’ll Sue! | Law Offices of … “Don’t think they’ll catch ya? Tell that to the 6,000+ summer camps, including the Girl Scouts, that received letters warning them that they had to pay royalties for public performances of any copyright works. It’s sad to think of the camp counselor too frightened to sing “Puff the Magic Dragon” around a camp fire, don’t you think? Nevertheless, publishing houses like ASCAP and BMI have field agents on payroll for this very reason.”
Field agents? Really? Do they hide in the bushes, poised to spring on unruly singers or are they outfitted with high-tech surveillance equipment for the job. Little Terrence in Mrs. Ballard’s first grade class? He’s wearing a wire!
I know, I know. It’s ridiculous as, say, Disney suing a daycare for painting a picture of Mickey on their wall, or the United States Olympic Committee getting around to suing a 30 year old eatery for having the word “Olympic” in their name, or Apple suing The Big Apple or some polish grocery site that had the audacity to use the internet designation a.pl. Oh. Those DID happen?
Never mind then.
Also, technically, you can’t read books out loud to your kids either: http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20090210/1014293724.shtml
And, by the way, here are five more laws you’ve no doubt unwittingly broken: http://allwomenstalk.com/laws-youve-probably-broken