Stephen Colbert Creates Royalty-Free Alternative To Happy Birthday For Happy Birthday's Happy Birthday

from the got-that? dept

For years, we've covered the insanity of Warner Music claiming to own the copyright on the song Happy Birthday -- a claim that is finally being challenged in court because Warner's claims are almost certainly bullshit, and the song should be in the public domain. The history of the copyright claim in the song is highly questionable, as the original "copyright holders" appear to have written neither the music nor the lyrics to "Happy Birthday," and what they did write was widely used decades before any copyright claim was made. Still, Warner gets somewhere around $2 million each year licensing the song (making it the most valuable song ever) and has no intention of giving up that free revenue stream.

A year or so ago, the folks at the Free Music Archive and WFMU asked people to create a new royalty-free song to add to the countless variations that restaurants have come up with over the years to avoid paying Warner. Not surprisingly, the "winner" of that contest has yet to catch on.

However, last week was technically the 90th anniversary of the song's "publication" date (from which the copyright claim comes, despite the song itself existing for decades prior). In response to this, Stephen Colbert did what Stephen Colbert does best, and mocked the ridiculous copyright situation by demonstrating that he was unable to "sing Happy Birthday for Happy Birthday's Happy Birthday." Instead, he decided to perform a new alternative, which he declares to be royalty-free for anyone to use, and basing it on the (public domain) melody of the American national anthem, The Star Spangled Banner (apologies ahead of time for those in various locations that Comedy Central geoblocks and who can't see this video -- I wish they didn't, but they do):
I'm not sure this one is any more likely to catch on than any of the other alternatives (and the lyrics may not be entirely appropriate for all birthdays...), but Colbert does have quite the loyal audience. At the very least, perhaps this version will become popular among copyright scholars.
Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: copyright, happy birthday, stephen colbert
Companies: warner music

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Thread

  1. identicon
    Claire Rand, 10 Mar 2014 @ 3:36pm

    There is a slight level of irony here in this, given the subject matter, that it is indeed geoblocked here.

    Still at least the banner informing me of this has a level of humour higher than many such things which tend to be simply rude.

    For the benefit of the USians out there:

    Sorry but this video is unaviable from your location

    Its one of the detriments from living under a monarchy. But in case you can't give up on your silly accents and move to America...

    And who says Americans don't do irony.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat

Warning: include(/home/beta6/deploy/itasca_20201215-3691-c395/includes/right_column/ failed to open stream: No such file or directory in /home/beta6/deploy/itasca_20201215-3691-c395/includes/right_column/ on line 8

Warning: include(): Failed opening '/home/beta6/deploy/itasca_20201215-3691-c395/includes/right_column/' for inclusion (include_path='.:/usr/share/pear:/home/beta6/deploy/itasca_20201215-3691-c395:/home/beta6/deploy/itasca_20201215-3691-c395/..') in /home/beta6/deploy/itasca_20201215-3691-c395/includes/right_column/ on line 8
Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.