I first heard about the copyright on Happy Birthday To You when watching Aaron Sorkin’s Sport’s Night:
(BTW – I don’t remember that show having a laugh track. Quite jarring)
I felt just as incredulous as that guy. Still, even the most obvious things, like zippers, have to come from someone’s brain. I didn’t think about it again for years. Until this June when Boing Boing, Ars, and NPR covered the story that a film maker is suing the copyright holders. He just made a whole documentary about Happy Birthday and so he has a pretty good handle on exactly where it came from. Turns out he believes it should not be in copyright. So he’s suing Time Warner for collecting copyright fees on something it shouldn’t hold the copyright on. Supposedly it makes Time-Warner $2 million a year so they could end up with a HUGE bill if the film maker can turn it into a class action lawsuit. However, considering how much money Time-Warner would be liable for, you can be certain they’ll bring their best lawyers to play. It should be a pretty interesting fight.