Scott Baio Got a Great Birthday Present Today

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis and more, subscribe to Mother Jones' newsletters.

Good news! A judge has ruled that “Happy Birthday To You” isn’t copyrighted after all:

[Warner/Chappell Music] had been enforcing its copyright claim since it paid $15 million to buy Birch Tree Group, the successor to Clayton F. Summy Co., which owned the original copyright. Royalties on the song bring in about $2 million a year for Warner, according to some estimates. Judge George H. King ruled Tuesday afternoon that a copyright filed by the Summy Co. in 1935 granted only the rights to specific arrangements of the music, not the actual song itself.

Why is this such great news? Because it means that chain restaurants can now stop singing all those dreadful birthday songs they’ve invented as a way of avoiding royalty payments. These “songs” usually go something like this:

Happy Birthday
Thump thump thump
Happy happy happy
Clap clap clap
Another year, another cheer
Clap thump clap thump clap clap clap thump
Yay whistle clap clap hoorah yay

This is just dreadful. Judge King has rendered a service to mankind—unless he gets reversed on appeal, of course.

Alternatively, Warner/Chappell Music could do a service for mankind and just relinquish the copyright voluntarily. Do they really care about the measly $2 million per year? Come on, Warner. Do the right thing.

Dear Reader,

This feels like the most important fundraising drive since I've been CEO of Mother Jones, with staggeringly high stakes and so much uncertainty. In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," I try to unpack the reality we all face and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support Mother Jones’ nonprofit journalism: We need to raise $400,000 to help cover the vital reporting projects we have planned, and right now is no time to pull back.

Monika Bauerlein, CEO, Mother Jones

Dear Reader,

This feels like the most important fundraising drive since I've been CEO of Mother Jones, with staggeringly high stakes and so much uncertainty. In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," I try to unpack the reality we all face and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support Mother Jones’ nonprofit journalism: We need to raise $400,000 to help cover the vital reporting projects we have planned, and right now is no time to pull back.

Monika Bauerlein, CEO, Mother Jones

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.