News and Notes: The Strange Case of Happy Birthday to You; Elvis Has Entered the Building

Happy Birthday Sheet Music

You know all the words to Happy Birthday to You.  You’ve heard it and you’ve sung it throughout your life.  If you’ve done a little reading about that song, you’ve no doubt learned that the song is not in the public domain and is still under a copyright.  In fact, Warner/Chappell Music, the company that states it holds the copyright to that song makes about $2 million dollars a year off of it.

However, a court case, Good Morning to You Productions Corp. vs. Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., is proceeding in Federal court in California which challenges that copyright.  Now new evidence has come to light at the last minute (and yes, that evidence is the photo above) in that case.  It appears to demonstrate that Happy Birthday to You has been in the public domain since the 1920s.  To read more about this fascinating case, check out a recent post about it on TechDirt by clicking here.

Stamp_ElvisPresleySquare_frontback

I previously noted that the U. S. Postal Service would be issuing a stamp honoring Elvis Presley this month.  Elvis finally arrived at the Post Office earlier this week.  Shown above is the front and back of the sheet of 16 forever stamps, which sells for $7.84.  Elvis might not be in all Post Offices (the small one near me doesn’t have the stamp yet) but the stamp should be available at most of them.

3 Responses to News and Notes: The Strange Case of Happy Birthday to You; Elvis Has Entered the Building

  1. John says:

    One welcomed outcome of the decision will be the disappearance of those oh so fey Happy Birthday alternatives sung by waitstaff at chain restaurants.

  2. J says:

    You’re not unfamiliar with the law so, if the court indeed puts the Birthday Song into the public domain and all appeals by Warner/Chappell Music fail, will Warner/Chappell Music need to repay the decades of royalties paid to it?

    • Eliot says:

      The court did not rule that Happy Birthday is in the public domain, just that Warner/Chappell did not hold the copyright to it. Of course, what happens to the money Warner/Chappell collected over the years, $54 million since 1988 when they acquired the Summy catalog, remains to be seen.

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