The Strange and Evil Truth Behind the ‘Happy Birthday’ Song
We went off the air for an hour this morning due to a power failure in our transmitter. It was not our fault and unpreventable. But now that we’re back, it feels like my birthday! That reminds me, have you heard the twisted, weird story behind the copyright on the song “Happy Birthday?”
You may have heard that every time someone sings “Happy Birthday to You” on television or in movies (or over the radio!) they must mail a check (it’s about $1,500) to the company that holds the copyright to the song. Rumor has it that Michael Jackson owned the copyright for a while.
Well, a filmmaker who studied the issue for a documentary is suing the copyright holders for fraud and is requesting they send back the checks to everyone who paid for permission in the last five years (it amounts to about $2 million a year).
The filmmaker is presenting historical proof that both the song and the lyrics were in popular use WAY before the 1935 copyright was filed.
They say that the copyright covers a specific piano arrangement of the song that no one even uses anymore. But because the copyright covered the piano arrangement with lyrics as a complete song, they get to require the money.
That’s like writing a piano arrangement for a popular folk song like “Old MacDonald” or “Three Blind Mice” and then demand money every time someone in a movie or TV show sings it. Pathetic.