Requiem for a Happy Birthday

Image: Greg Harrison
Image: Greg Harrison

Happy Birthday to You…

Happy Birthday to You…

Happ… STOP!

Any further and we will have to pay for that shit! No really. Here’s a fact that you may or may not know about the song Happy Birthday if you’re a filmmaker, company or restaurant owner, prepare to pay straight out of the ass for the use of the song despite that the original creators have died a long time ago. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Well time for a little history lesson. Well, a short history lesson:

A long time ago sisters Patty and Mildred J. Hall created the song based on the now public domain song Good Morning to All in 1893 because it would be easier to sing to children. Then a hundred and one years ago in 1912, the song has finally been put into print in which later in 1935, the Summy Company gets the rights to the song and had it copyrighted. Crediting authors Preston Ware Orem and R.R. Foreman. After a series of acquisitions and new ownerships, Warner Chappell bought the rights to Happy Birthday To You for $15 million in 1990 and makes it clear that royalties must be paid in order for this song to be played in any film or public performance. Which leads to this:

  • Happy Birthday to You is the most recognized song in the English language. Right next to “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow“*
  • Warner/Chappell wants $10,000+ for any performance made on film,
  • This often led to many renditions and creative new songs to make sure this is one check Warner/Chappell doesn’t get. They’re dicks that way, LOL.

*That song is public domain.

Don’t believe me? Check this out:

And to make things worse for those who been wanting to use the song, Well… for the United States, we would have to wait until 2030 before it makes it into the public domain unless you’re with the European Union, then you can get that three years from now in 2016. But say you’re impatient and want to give the finger to Warner Chappell in your next film any good reason to do that? Well I can give you 139 reasons for that. The Free Music Archive and WFMU, the longest running freeform radio station in the U.S. made a contest to decide who can de-throne the dominating song that two old ladies never had the benefits to and the prize of having it out there and replace the old with the brand spanking new under the name of free expression.

Besides, who really cares about Happy Birthday to You unless you’re really really old. You can check out this list here.

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