[Ads-l] Happy Birthday published in 1922, so out of copyright?

Tue Aug 4 19:07:06 UTC 2015

The publication is probably not all that significant.  It was already known that Happy Birthday to You was published in collections in 1912, 1918, 1924, and 1933, so this additional collection just adds one more.  Any of those publications, if made with the permission of the authors, would place the song in the public domain.

Currently, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc. purports to own the copyright to Happy Birthday to You, based on a copyright registration in 1935.  There is currently litigation as to the validity of this copyright; the plaintiffs argue that the 1935 copyright covered only the particular musical arrangement, while the defendants argue that it also covered the lyrics.  The defendants also argue that the various publications of the song were made without permission, so did not put the lyrics in the public domain.

The significance of the 1922 publication is that it includes the notice "Special permission through courtesy of The Clayton F. Summy Co."  It was Summy that subsequently obtained the 1935 registration.  However, as the defendants point out, Summy did not own the rights to Happy Birthday to You in 1922.  

By the way, I'm sending this post from my iPad to see if it gets through better than my posts using Microsoft Outlook.

John Baker

Sent from my iPad

> On Aug 4, 2015, at 1:38 PM, Stephen Goranson <goranson at DUKE.EDU> wrote:
> http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/05/business/media/an-old-songbook-could-put-happy-birthday-in-the-public-domain.html?hpw&rref=business&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=well-regionĀ®ion=bottom-well&WT.nav=bottom-well&_r=0<http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/05/business/media/an-old-songbook-could-put-happy-birthday-in-the-public-domain.html?hpw&rref=business&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=well-region&region=bottom-well&WT.nav=bottom-well&_r=0>
> SG
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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