Stephen Colbert Creates Royalty-Free Alternative To Happy Birthday For Happy Birthday's Happy Birthday

from the got-that? dept

For years, we've covered the insanity of Warner Music claiming to own the copyright on the song Happy Birthday -- a claim that is finally being challenged in court because Warner's claims are almost certainly bullshit, and the song should be in the public domain. The history of the copyright claim in the song is highly questionable, as the original "copyright holders" appear to have written neither the music nor the lyrics to "Happy Birthday," and what they did write was widely used decades before any copyright claim was made. Still, Warner gets somewhere around $2 million each year licensing the song (making it the most valuable song ever) and has no intention of giving up that free revenue stream.

A year or so ago, the folks at the Free Music Archive and WFMU asked people to create a new royalty-free song to add to the countless variations that restaurants have come up with over the years to avoid paying Warner. Not surprisingly, the "winner" of that contest has yet to catch on.

However, last week was technically the 90th anniversary of the song's "publication" date (from which the copyright claim comes, despite the song itself existing for decades prior). In response to this, Stephen Colbert did what Stephen Colbert does best, and mocked the ridiculous copyright situation by demonstrating that he was unable to "sing Happy Birthday for Happy Birthday's Happy Birthday." Instead, he decided to perform a new alternative, which he declares to be royalty-free for anyone to use, and basing it on the (public domain) melody of the American national anthem, The Star Spangled Banner (apologies ahead of time for those in various locations that Comedy Central geoblocks and who can't see this video -- I wish they didn't, but they do):
I'm not sure this one is any more likely to catch on than any of the other alternatives (and the lyrics may not be entirely appropriate for all birthdays...), but Colbert does have quite the loyal audience. At the very least, perhaps this version will become popular among copyright scholars.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Claire Rand, Mar 10th, 2014 @ 3:36pm

    There is a slight level of irony here in this, given the subject matter, that it is indeed geoblocked here.

    Still at least the banner informing me of this has a level of humour higher than many such things which tend to be simply rude.

    For the benefit of the USians out there:

    Sorry but this video is unaviable from your location

    Its one of the detriments from living under a monarchy. But in case you can't give up on your silly accents and move to America...


    And who says Americans don't do irony.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Mar 10th, 2014 @ 3:49pm

    For those who can't watch it:

    Here's the lyrics.

    Happy birthday to you
    happy birthday to me
    now we all get to sing
    happy birthday for free

    And the candle's red glare
    don't set fire to your hair
    you're getting so old
    and you're shaped like a pear

    Happy birthday insert name here
    if you don't know it just mumble softly
    Warner music can't sue me
    and the home of the brave

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    icon
    vorpal (profile), Mar 10th, 2014 @ 4:51pm

    Re:

    For us Aussies it says "...in case you can't give up your vegemite..."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    icon
    Rikuo (profile), Mar 10th, 2014 @ 5:02pm

    Re:

    For me (Ireland) it says "Allow us to introduce our much paler cousin, Comedy Central UK"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Anon, Mar 10th, 2014 @ 5:30pm

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 10th, 2014 @ 5:35pm

    Canada: Probably due to your overly polite attitudes.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
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    Alana (profile), Mar 10th, 2014 @ 5:43pm

    Re:

    It's weird that it's available in NZ. Normally we get the short end of the stick.

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 10th, 2014 @ 6:50pm

    Was he trying to say "home of the free" at the end, since it rhymes with "sue me"? But I guess he changed it to the other one because he's not actually free to sing Happy Birthday.

     

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  9.  
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    jupiterkansas (profile), Mar 10th, 2014 @ 7:28pm

    To bad the world couldn't have made a day of it and publicly performed the song everywhere possible, on radio, television, the internet, public squares, etc. Love to see Warner try to sue hundreds of people over a 90 year old song being sung to Warner Brothers.

    (Aren't these media companies supposed to be dead by now?)

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 10th, 2014 @ 8:04pm

    Blocked due to copyright and licensing

    Iíd love to see Colbertís alternative, but itís blocked due to copyright and licensing restrictions because Iím not in the US.

    Perhaps Colbert could do a sketch about that, too.

    God bless America and itís business practices and laws.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
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    Paul Renault (profile), Mar 11th, 2014 @ 4:39am

    Re:

    For us Canucks, it's blaming our overly polite attitudes.

    In Quebec, they don't sing Happy Birthday, but rather a reworked version of Gens du Pays, with words along the lines of "My dear ____, it's your turn to let yourself talk about love".

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    icon
    ethorad (profile), Mar 11th, 2014 @ 5:49am

    Re:

    For some reason the banner pissed me off more than just a "We refuse to show you this content because you're outside the USA"

    They should be honest about why they're not showing us the video and not try and blame it on the user.

    The banner closes with a request that us foreigners go to watch clips on their website. Not likely. Why would I bother when I haven't seen this video? I'm told it was amusing and would have made me want to see more but I have no idea.

    Grr.

     

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  13.  
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    Niall (profile), Mar 11th, 2014 @ 6:35am

    Re:

    Here in the UK it says:

    "Sorry this video is unavailable from your location.

    It's one of the detriments of living under a monarchy. But in case you can't give up your silly accents and move to America, watch clips from the Colbert Report at comedycentral.co.uk"

    'Silly' accents? That's rich coming from a bunch of colonials! :)

     

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  14.  
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    Stephen Morrow, Mar 11th, 2014 @ 7:07am

    AUTOPLAY?

    Ugh ... please, please, please. Stephen Colbert is great and all but having to search through my tabs and then all the articles on a blog to figure out what damn video is PLAYING without me asking it to so is so frustrating at 7am. -_- Let's prevent that from happening in the future, OK? Thank you.

     

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  15.  
    icon
    crashsuit (profile), Mar 11th, 2014 @ 8:50am

    What day is today
    It's Leela's birthday
    What a day for a birthday
    Let's all have some cake

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    Reality bites, Mar 11th, 2014 @ 9:34am

    Nothing dumber in the known universe than a copyright judge

    They are even dumber than the Un-supreme court clowns.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    icon
    nasch (profile), Mar 11th, 2014 @ 1:37pm

    Re: Blocked due to copyright and licensing

    Iíd love to see Colbertís alternative, but itís blocked due to copyright and licensing restrictions because Iím not in the US.

    Perhaps Colbert could do a sketch about that, too.


    For you to not watch? Wouldn't really be in character anyway - his character doesn't care about foreigners.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
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    Jonas, Mar 12th, 2014 @ 12:04am

    It must be said. That was by far the most epic and awesome Happy Birthday song ever composed and performed.

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    I'm_Having_None_Of_It, Mar 13th, 2014 @ 6:19am

    Re:

    "Sorry this video is unavailable from your location.

    It's one of the detriments of living under a copyright regime where market segmentation is accepted as a right. But in case you can't give up your silly accents and move to America, too bad." *1 finger salute*

    FIFY

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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