Sometimes the world makes sense. Sometimes, things don’t knot themselves into a ridiculous tangle, and force an equally ridiculous lawsuit to unknot them.
This isn’t one of those times. Did you know “Happy Birthday” is copyrighted?
Yep. Copyrighted, not messing with you here. And also insanely profitable, which is (predictably) why it’s still copyrighted.
See, here’s how it works: a long while back, Patty and Mildred Hill wrote a song called “Good Morning to All”, which contained the seeds of “Happy Birthday” (change the lyrics around in the second verse, and you get the universal birthday anthem). It was covered by copyright, which was passed about, messed with, and somehow extended to cover “Happy Birthday” by Warner/Chappell Music, a music publisher and division of corporate monolith Warner Music Group. Warner/Chappell, predictably, makes an obscene amount of money whenever the song is performed in public.
There’s a problem though. As has been extensively documented and researched (look here, or here, and maybe here to go down this surprisingly interesting rabbit hole) the whole thing is probably BS. Of course, actually calling that BS would cost more than accepting it paying the fee, so no one’s done it. Until now.
Good Morning to You Productions, a company working on a documentary about “Happy Birthday”, has filed a lawsuit contesting the status of the song. Not only that, but they’re also seeking to force Warner/Chappell to return the money (oh so much money) that they’ve made from the copyright – look here to read the whole thing.
And, well, that’s what’s happening. Welcome to the the weirdest celebrity trial ever.