Friday, June 14, 2013

Happy Birthday IS in the Public Domain

Or at least it will be if all goes as it should. You can read all about it (and the the lawsuit against Warner Chappell) here.

Here are some highlights:
If and to the extent that defendant Warner/Chappell relies upon the 1893, 1896, 1899, or 1907 copyrights for the melody of Good Morning to All, those copyrights expired or were forfeited as alleged herein.

As alleged above, the 1893 and 1896 copyrights to the original and revised versions of Song Stories for the Kindergarten, which contained the song Good Morning to All were not renewed by Summy and accordingly expired in 1921 and 1924, respectively.

As alleged above, the 1899 copyright to Song Stories for the Sunday School, which contained Good Morning to All, and the 1907 copyright to Good Morning to All were not renewed by Summy Co. before its expiration in 1920 and accordingly expired in 1927 and 1935, respectively.

The 1893, 1896, 1899, and 1907 copyrights to Good Morning to All were forfeited by the republication of Good Morning to All in 1921 without proper notice of its original 1893 copyright.

The copyright to Good Morning to All expired in 1921 because the 1893 copyright to Song Stories for the Kindergarten was not properly renewed.

The piano arrangements for Happy Birthday to You published by Summy Co. 111 in 1935 (Reg. Nos. E51988 and E51990) were not eligible for federal copyright protection because those works did not contain original works of authorship, except to the extent of the piano arrangements themselves.

The 1934 and 1935 copyrights pertained only to the piano arrangements, not to the melody or lyrics of the song Happy Birthday to You.

The registration certificates for The Elementary Worker and His Work in 1912, Harvest in 1924, and Children's Praise and Worship in 1928, which did not attribute authorship of the lyrics to Happy Birthday to You to anyone, are prima facie evidence that the lyrics were not authored by the Hill Sisters.

In 1934 the people who made "Pardon My Pups" had to write an alternative version (you'll hear it at 1:33) of "Happy Birthday" in order avoid paying royalties:

and Fred Rogers took the opportunity to write a truly lovely birthday song:

1 comment:

Stephen Owades said...

Stravinsky got in (minor) trouble over "Happy Birthday" with his brief Greeting Prelude for Pierre Monteux in 1955, an ingenious and very Stravinskian arrangement premiered by the Boston Symphony (and prompted, I believe, by its players). He thought the tune was in the public domain, which it probably should have been. I think the copyright holders let him off the hook for the infringement.