“Great news for those of you who have been paying royalties every time you sing ‘Happy Birthday’ – assuming the judge approves a proposed settlement, he will declare that the song is in the public domain, making it free for everyone.” Warner will make some refunds for royalties paid, and plaintiff’s lawyers will ask for $4.62 million — “an awful lot of money for freeing ‘Happy Birthday.'” [Lowering the Bar; earlier here, etc.]
“The world’s most popular English language song is potentially free from copyright after a federal judge ruled on Tuesday that filmmakers challenging Warner/Chappell Music’s hold on “Happy Birthday to You” should be granted summary judgment.” [Eriq Gardner, Hollywood Reporter/Billboard] We’ve covered the saga a number of times previously. More: Lowering the Bar.
If one of my family members chooses to sing the familiar “Happy Birthday To You” in celebration of my birthday today, their chances of prevailing against the tenacious lawyers at Warner Music Group appear better than ever. Law librarians helped by laying hands on a copy of a 1922 songbook in which the ditty, already by then decades old, appeared with no copyright notice; Warner/Chappell applied for copyright registration in 1935. [Above the Law, ABA Journal, BoingBoing, Joe Mullin/ArsTechnica] Earlier here, here, and here.
Warner/Chappell Music continues to demand and collect royalties for public performance of the ditty, although its melody was first published more than 120 years ago and the familiar celebratory words have been sung to it for more than a century. A new lawsuit seeks a judicial ruling that the song is in the public domain and asks a return of wrongfully collected royalties. [The Hollywood Reporter via Mike Masnick, TechDirt]
Overlawyered, often named as the oldest law blog, published its first post on July 1, 1999. That means tonight we’ll complete 20 years of continuous publication. You can read the first half-month of posts here, and some best-of highlights from over the years here. Happy birthday to us!
To get more Overlawyered in your social media diet, like us on Facebook here (and don’t forget to like the Cato Institute and the page for me, Walter Olson) and follow us on Twitter (ditto and ditto).
P.S. Internet Archive’s first snapshot of the front page was taken Oct. 7, 1999, and featured the pink-and-grey color scheme that the site was to retain for many years. (Plus a webring — does anyone remember those? — an articles library, a discussion forum other than comments, and many other features since discontinued.) You can see the archives for the first half of July 1999 in Internet Archive form here.
And: “So congratulations to Walter Olson on his blog’s 20 birthday. Two decades in, and his blog is as vital and compelling as ever,” writes Bob Ambrogi at LawSites. He also takes up the question of whether Greg Siskind’s VisaLaw, which in 1998 launched a page with reverse chronological scrolling updates to report on a legislative emergency, fits the bill as both older and a legal blog.
Overlawyered published its first post on July 1, 1999. That means we’ve achieved 18 years of continuous publication. You can read the first half-month of posts here. Happy birthday to us!
To get more Overlawyered in your social media diet, like us on Facebook here (and don’t forget to like the Cato Institute and the page for our editor Walter Olson) and follow us on Twitter (ditto and ditto).
As I went walking I saw a sign there.
And on the sign it said “(C) — Guthrie estate”
But on the other side it didn’t say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.
“Following their successful actions to bring the songs ‘Happy Birthday’ and ‘We Shall Overcome’ into the public domain, New York law firm Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz are now taking on a similar action for the Woody Guthrie classic, ‘This Land Is Your Land.'” [IP Flow/Mimesis Law]
Back in 2004, when the successors in interest of Guthrie’s heirs threatened the writers of a politically oriented parody with copyright litigation, Fred von Lohmann of the Electronic Frontier Foundation wondered what Guthrie himself would have thought of the action, given that he once used a copyright notice that said:
This song is Copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright # 154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we don’t give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that’s all we wanted to do.
The lyrics of “My Land,” including the “No Trespassing” verse lightly altered above, are here, complete with copyright assertion.
“‘We Shall Overcome,’ a song that was the ‘unofficial anthem to the civil rights movement,’ was wrongly placed under copyright and should be put in the public domain, according to a lawsuit filed today in federal court. The complaint was filed by the same group of lawyers who succeeded at putting the world’s most famous song, Happy Birthday, into the public domain after years of litigation.” [Joe Mullin, ArsTechnica; earlier on “Happy Birthday”]
- Record-setting tenure of bullying Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) “nothing to celebrate” [Dan Calabrese, Detroit News] Compare: “How to shut down a restaurant in Mexico” [Rob Beschizza]
- How far does discrimination law go? Bill Baldwin interviews John Donohue [Forbes, and thanks for further-reading link]
- Claim: bonding company responsible for actions of criminal after tracking failed [Insurance Journal, S.C.]
- Memo to California legislature: don’t abolish statute of limitation on abuse claims [Prof. Bainbridge]
- Here Come the Other “Happy Birthday” Lawsuits [Lowering the Bar, earlier]
- SCOTUS story someone should cover: Christian-right legal groups backed “right to advocate prostitution” brief in AID case [Volokh, earlier]
- “A TSA employee spotted [the beautiful jeweled lighter] and I swear his eyes lit up.” [David Henderson]