Friday, April 11, 2008

Unhappy Birthday?

If you are in any way associated with the cross stitching world, you're probably familiar with all the copyright 'discussions' that have been going on over the past several years. In other words, you probably know what is legal and what is illegal when it comes to the use of a pattern. But what if I told you that the song 'Happy Birthday' is copyrighted? Would you believe that?

Well, you should, because it is a FACT! It's officially owned by Time Warner. For those of you who didn't know this, it was news to me too! And for those of you who already knew, all I can say is that I must have been asleep at the time they announced this little tidbit of information ;o)

About a month ago, DH and I were out doing some errands. He always listens to CBC Radio in his car. It's sort of like the PBS channel on television but minus the television. LOL! Anyway, they were interviewing a man about his website, Unhappy Birthday. Basically, this man has made it his mission to get the word out that the 'Happy Birthday' song is copyrighted and if you're singing it in public, you're committing copyright infringement. "So what?" you say? Well he also states that if you do not have a license to sing the song, you should be paying royalty fees to Time Warner.

Okay, so what he's saying is that you can sing the song among friends and family while at home, but it's a major no-no if you do it in public. Mmmmmm... Let's just think about this for a minute. The act of singing the song is still being done whether it is at home or in public. What's the difference? How many of you have taken your children to McDonald's or Chucky Cheese for their birthday parties and have sung the song there...in public? Come on, raise your hands, I promise I won't report you ;o) Knowing this information, will you, as a parent, cease to sing 'Happy Birthday' to your child in public for fear of being reprimanded? I highly doubt it. I know I wouldn't.

I realize why copyright laws are put into place but really, this has become absurd! It's not like the people who are singing it out in public are out there making a buck on this song or claiming that they wrote it. The song is traditional! Do they have a copyright in place for all those Christmas carols we sing each year? Someone wrote them. What will be the next thing?

Unhappy Birthday to you,
Unhappy Birthday to you,
Unhappy Birthday dear little Bobby,
Unhappy Birthday to you.

Not as catchy as the original and I'm sure there will be a lot of crying children because of this. Oh-oh! Maybe I'm not even supposed to use the same melody. I know I may get flamed for this post but I am curious to know what people think. Will it bother you now that you know you've committed copyright infringement or will you just continue on as you did before? This might be interesting ;o)

13 comments:

Chiloe said...

Does it count if I sang it to a kid was not MY kid? :-D I'm too afraid you may report me to the police !!! lol

Irene said...

Very interesting. When we sing Happy Birthday to family and friends, either at home or a restaurant,(including schools for kids) I don't believe we are performing. Now if it is used in a commercial, then it is being used professionaly and yes, I believe permission and royalties should be paid, as is with any other song. With so many other concerns in the world, that guy should get a life :)

Kendra said...

That is absurd!! I - and almost everyone I know - would be "in trouble" for this, because everyone has sung Happy Birthday in public at least once. I think this man's quest is futile...he would have to charge everyone from the Average Joes on up to celebrities (Marilyn Monroe's song to JFK...that was in a VERY public place in front of lots of people), bands, politicians...

This man is a grouchy old poop if he's serious about quashing out Happy Birthday.

Nancy said...

What always strikes me, when I hear about things like "HB" being copyrighted, is "why"? Why does someone always think they have to own something? Is nothing just "ours"?

And since I'm catching up ... your post about the doe ... thank you for being so very caring!! I know this was a heart-wrenching experience for you, but thank you for sharing your heart with another being. (((((Cathey)))))

Faith Ann said...

lol I worked with a guy a few years ago who brought up the Happy Birthday copyright whenever *anybody* had a birthday. It is presumably why most of the restaurants do not sing the "real" Happy Birthday song when they bring the birthday person their dessert.

Karen said...

I wish they had a good eye rolling smilie on here,

Lori-Ann said...

copyright laws could potentially just suck the joy and life out of the world.

The laws just leave most people scratching their heads trying to make sense of them all.

There isn't a single person on this Earth who hasn't unknowingly broken "copyright laws". This world is so crowded, it's hard not to step on someones toes.

I also think that the copyright laws can only protect those who have the time and money to enforce it. (One reason I'm not published)

Brave girl to bring up the topic! ;o)

stitcherw said...

Some things can just get carried to far. It might be copyrighted, but at some point the common usage becomes such that it really doesn't make much sense. Like the use of the word kleenex, it is a copyright name but no one really thinks of it that way anymore. I think where I notice it the most is when it is sung at different resturants where they come out and sing a form of Happy Birthday, where the melody and words have been changed so as to not get them into possible trouble.
Sue

Marita said...

My hubby used to work in radio and did a bit of film editing also. He pointed out to me once that you very rarely hear people singing "Happy Birthday" on TV shows or in films because of the copyright issue. Go figure.

Rachel S said...

I think we should all start singing that birthday song Stevie Wonder wrote. he's not freaking out if people sing it. And you can groove during the song!

Aussie Stitcher said...

I am a copyright infringer ;0(, and I will stay that way.

Ranae said...

hehe! very interesting post and comments.

Kathryn said...

Copyright used to be good for 14 years. Certainly enough time for most copyrights to generate the money owed to the creator. Then they changed it to "the life of the creator", which is awkward, but possibly justifiable if you are a one hit wonder. NOW, in a decision called the "Disney law", it is "the life of the creator plus 75!!!!! years". Why? Because Disney was about lose the copyright on Mickey Mouse. And the Disney Corporation is VERY, VERY vicious about protecting that copyright. They have people who check out flea markets to make sure that NO ONE is selling Disney copyrighted embroidery. Not to mention McDonald's, who shut down a local coffee shop named McCoffee, when McDonald's started to sell coffee themselves. (They didn't used to.) You are right that copyright has gotten out of hand, especially these days when most copyrights have been sold and no longer even belong to the creators. (i.e. Apple Corps. [The Beatles] do not hold the copyright to any of their songs.)