Friday, September 4, 2015

Who owns the birthday song?

Ever wondered why restaurant staffers don’t sing “Happy birthday to you” to the familiar tune when they serenade celebrating patrons?

Because “Happy Birthday” is under copyright, and its owner, the publishing division of Warner Music Group, is due a royalty payment every time it is sung in a public performance. (You can sing it at home without owing the publisher.)

Now, a manuscript of the original version of the song, “Good Morning to All,” written by Patty and Mildred Hill of Louisville, KY, published in the 1890s in the collection “Song Stories for Kindergarten,” has turned up in in the library of the University of Louisville.

“There is an important detail to note, however: [T]he melody in the original manuscript is slightly different than the eventual, ‘Happy Birthday’ melody we all know,” leaving the ownership issue up to further debate, and ongoing litigation, Paul Resnikoff reports for Digital Music News:

And why is a song written more than 120 years ago still under copyright, perhaps until 2030? Here’s one explanation: