Photo copyright
Let’s not mess around.  Hilarious cat popping out of birthday cake photo copyright:

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:  “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  Oh.  Those DID happen?

Disney In Copyright Spats With Day Care Center, Restaurant

US Olympic Committee Forces 30 Year Old Philidelphia Gyro …

DailyTech – Apple Attacks The Big Apple: Apple and NYC Battle …

Never mind then.

Also, technically, you can’t read books out loud to your kids either:

And, by the way, here are five more laws you’ve no doubt unwittingly broken:

19 thoughts on “June 15, 2013: Unhappy Birthday to you! And don’t buy your next iPhone from an online deli!

  1. That cat pic practically made me laugh real tears!

    I’ve known for ages that HB was copyrighted. Apparently for a popular show its really quite expensive. I remember reading one TV production (can’t remember which) paid $40k.

  2. “3. YOU WRITE ANYTHING DISTURBING,,,”…and this differs from Mainland China how??? We have already become what we thought we were fighting…bummer…

  3. I’ve hardly ever heard HB sung on TV. We get the “for he’s a jolly good fellow” rubbish thanks to copyrighting. That we persist in singing HB gives me hope that our culture still has enough of a populist push that we’re not going to inevitably do what’s done on TV. That’s not an endorsement of copyright law, just a very thin silver lining that exists only in my musings.

  4. @Joe:

    I’ve had my own encounters with ASCAP in college; I was in Student Government and ran some events for the student body. We couldn’t put a VCR in the break-room because that was considered a public performance and we would have to pay an event fee every time a student put a tape in the VCR, even if he was the only viewer of the tape.

    We also couldn’t pipe in broadcast radio to the ceiling speakers until we started paying a monthly ASCAP fee (even though supposedly the radio station already paid the “public performance fee”). It is apparently illegal to play a radio station in a public place without paying ASCAP, even as a private citizen.

    Same thing for the Superbowl …it’s illegal to show it in a public setting on anything larger than a 55″ screen:

    Even at home, you are only legal as long as you don’t invite “a substantial number of persons”, but I have no idea what limit is.

  5. Technically my username is not illegal because I really am D as in Danger! Woo!

    There was (is?) an old law on the books in New Jersey that it was illegal to be left-handed, so needless to say, I’m screwed.

    That said, I thought of you tonight, Joey! I went to go out the back door, and I see a streak of white, followed by another streak, followed by a cat. Seems I startled a skunk, which startled a ‘possum, which startled a kitty…which startled the ‘possum, which startled the skunk. All of my windows were open, and soon after Mr. Bushytail disappeared behind our shed the lovely aroma of startled skunk came wafting through the house. It started out smelling like burnt rubber, but has since mellowed into the aroma of a nice strong cup of espresso. Not unpleasant at all. 🙂


  6. Did I ever tell you of a business that is/was here called Stargate Day Care? Their address was on Egypt-Honea Road. I’ll have to go look at the picture of the scanned newspaper clipping but I think it was a health department list and they had no demerits. I wondered if they had the SG1 puppets for the kids. I posted it on line somewhere. I will look for a link

  7. The Happy Birthday lawsuit is just a publicity stunt for a documentary being made about the song.

    I agree, however, that it should be out of copyright and if the lawsuit just contested that then they might have had a chance of winning. But claiming a refund for all the monies collected over the years will result in the claim being thrown out.

    Actually, we can blame Mickey Mouse and Sonny Bono for the current state of affairs. If it wasn’t for various reforms to the copyright act a lot of the early Mickey Mouse films would be in the public domain by now.

  8. Those lawsuits?: What a bunch of horse hockey.

    Well, it explains why the restaurants now have their staff sing a different song when they bring out birthday treats.

    das:, you certainly have a unique sense of smell. While I do note the similarities between skunk and dark roast coffee, I still find the raw-garlic-and-coffee skunk smell unpleasant.

  9. I worked at a big, giant corporation that was very careful about legalese. They told us during training that if we ever wanted to play a recorded song for a presentation or event, that they had all the rights for that sorted out and to go right ahead and not waste time checking on it. I thought it was a weird statement since how does that cover every independent recording? But I do trust that they wouldn’t say that in the training unless it was at least true they could get away with it. They were very good at keeping their lies only to what would hold up in court.

    If I had an independent recording, though, I’d be terrified to take this corporation to court. They’d claim they held the patent to something used in the recording or some other scary tactic only a company that pretty much writes the law could get away with and the precedent it would set would be devastating for everyone but them.

  10. @Tam Dixon:

    I’m glad the cheesecake freezing went well. I froze one myself last year, but only because I ran out of refrigerator space and it was only frozen a day or so. It makes me wonder how long it would keep (long term) if I sealed it well. That might allow me to keep a cheesecake in reserve for special events that pop up.


    I was going to comment about your sense of smell, but Sparrow_hawk beat me to it. 🙂

  11. I’ve used that cat picture as my profile picture on my birthday for a couple of years now — it makes me laugh out loud every time I look at it, it is so ridiculous. 🙂

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