Yours, Mine, Ours
This is mildly interesting:
My two initial reactions: in the case of invention, it is not unlikely that two artists could stumble upon a similar melody at relatively the same time, or that one could be inspired by the other. And though I would generally side with the author of the original tune, I must admit that the Coldplay song started playing on a loop in my head the moment I saw the iPod commercial in which it is featured. Whereas I can't remember the Creaky Boards tune for the life of me. So, the melodies are different enough that one employs poppier turns of phrase and more distinctive fluctuations between the notes. I'm not a huge fan of Coldplay in the first place but will admit to liking a handful of songs. Yet it was one of their most lugubrious, cloying and my least favorite song of theirs, "Fix You," that I sang every morning when I awoke for a week straight (which, frankly, seems like a more valid reason to sue Coldplay). Anyhow, decide for yourself.
This is even more interesting:
On the topic of copyright issues, the song 'Happy Birthday' has both a fascinating origin and subsequent life story. The song began as "Good Morning to All" as composed by schoolteacher Mildred J. Hill and her sister Patty in the late 19th Century. However, the melody was not entirely written by them in the first place but rather borrowed from a variety of popular songs at the time, a practice that was not uncommon within the oral or folk traditions. It was children who ultimately played with and changed the lyrics to "Happy Birthday to you," as they had begun singing the song at parties. By the time the Hill sisters registered a copyright of the song in 1935, they claimed both the melody and the birthday lyrics as their own. In the subsequent years many artists and companies were slapped with copyright infringement lawsuits or forced to pay high rates for the use of the song. From Western Union, whose singing telegrams often included "Happy Birthday" (incidentally, it was the singing telegram that most likely spread the popularity of the tune across the country) to Igor Stravinsky, who was reprimanded after including several bars of the song in one of his symphonies.
But where the story really gets good is when Time Warner purchased the copyright of "Happy Birthday" in 1988. In the mid 1990s, their publishing company, who collects the royalties, sent a letter to the Girl Scouts and other summer camps informing them that they would now need to purchase the rights to the song in order to perform it. The penalty for a single, unauthorized performance of the song would range from $5,000 or six days in jail to $100,000 and a year in jail. In the end, after several camps ceased singing the song and many others issued formal complaints, the publishing company rescinded its request saying that it would no longer charge non-profit organizations for use of the song.
This all means that sometime during our childhoods, we likely broke the law whilst singing what we thought to be an authorless tune.
From Kembrew McLeod's Freedom of Expression:
Copyright law defines a "public performance" as something that occurs "at a place open to the public, or at any place where a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of family and its social acquaintances is gathered." For instance, around a campfire.
Fortunately, these days, for those of us who merely want a melodious and traditional way of wishing one another well as we turn the page on another year, the song" Happy Birthday" is no longer under copyright protection. Over half a century of ridiculousness has now come to and end. You can read all about that here.
Or check out Freedom of Expression: Overzealous Copyright Bozos and Other Enemies of Creativity by Kembrew McLeod.
And speaking of birthdays.
12:49 PM ET | 06-18-2008 | permalink