04 August 2006

Sing Happy Birthday, commit copyright infringement

I was rummaging through the net for some royalty-free, birthday-related images when I cam across this happy unbirthday site.

Did you know that when you sing "Happy Birthday to You" in a public place (such as the restaurant), you are actually committing copyright infringement? Yep, the song is copyrighted by no other than Time Warner and singing it in a public place is tantamount to public performance of a copyrighted song and is deemed illegal if royalties have not been paid.

My reaction: What about the kids who sing carols door-to-door? Wanna make them pay royalties too? Sure, the song may be copyrighted, but isn't there a clause whereby you need to pay royalties only if you profit from it? (Example: you record it as part of an album that's sold, or part of a concert). Wait ... so the kids ought to pay royalties for the carols they sing then? Well, a lawyer I'm not so anybody dropping by this blog knowledgeable on the matter of copyright infringement, shed light on this matter please?

Hmmm.... time to cook up a new jingle to sing Happy Birthday with. Until then, have a great weekend ahead!


  1. Some more facts,

    Happy Birthday to You is attributed to Mildred J. Hill and Patty Smith Hill who in 1893 penned the song Good Morning to You to the tune of what is now Happy Birthday to You. Nobody knows who added the second verse of that song which is now know as Happy Birthday to You but if first appeared in print in 1924.

    The now deceased Hill sisters receive about $2 million in royalties per year put into a foundation in their behalf.

  2. Anonymous10:05 pm

    hi Watson!
    here are bits i read from a forum while surfing. i dunno how authentic, i'm sharing it anyway. cheers! =)

    There are two types of copyrights, the copyright of the song and the
    copyright of the recording.

    With whistling a song on a subway, singing Christmas Carols door to door, or singing Happy Birthday in a restaurant, you do not have to worry about the copyright of the recording because you aren't using. You only have to
    worry about the copyright of the song.

    In the case of the subway or restaurant, it is up the venue to pay the licensing fees to ASCAP and BMI. The singer/whistler would be exempt. The person whistling or singing does not have to worry about these fees.

    Happy Birthday is old enough to be in public domain and is exempt from any such fees.

    Singing Christmas Carols (not in public domain) door to door is fine, but if (for example) the
    caroling was organized by a church, business, or other non-familial organization, then fair use would not apply.

  3. The guy who started that website is a friend of mine in the Free/Open Source software world..hehe

  4. Interesting trivia. You just made me realize we don't have a "Happy Birthday" song in Filipino, do we?

  5. ngayon ko lang narinig yun ah, dami ko na palang utang sa author ng kanyang yan! hehe

  6. Anonymous3:22 pm

    as long as you don't sing them for commercial purposes,maybe itsokey?

    cute pics of mcdonalds toys..ill try to bring some mc toys giveaways for jolo when we see each other in our eb next year,matuloy naman kaya?

  7. maligayang bati... maligayang bati... ooops may nagmamay-ari na ba nito?

    what a bunch of kj's. hehehe.

  8. Happy happy happy bertday. Sayo ang inumin, sa iyo ang pagkain!

    Yan na lang kantahin natin para pinoy ang dating!

  9. Hello Ed. In the year 2000 when I was working in a web development firm, we were very concerned with using jpg because apparently that format was also copyrighted and you need to pay royalty in using it so we opted for the png format. Things get so commonplace that you'd think it's public domain, eh?

    Hello en! Na-intriga ka sa copyright issue rin? Hehehe. Weird no?

    Uy talaga jgotangco? You do get around in the tech world, don't ya?

    Meron, Abaniko, Nakakahiya, pero hanggang "Maligayang Bati" lang ang alam ko...

    Cruise, laman ka ba ng maaraming birthday parties? hehehe

    Sana nga matuloy, Sach!

    Jeff, oo nga e. Ngayon, mapapaisip ka kung sasama ka sa pagkanta ng song na ito. I-hum na lang atin!

    Korek, Ate Fionski! Yan, medyo alam ko lyrics nyan!

  10. kaya kaming tropa ang version namin ng hapi bday ay ... -singing- bday ni (name ng may bday) si (name ng may bday) ang may bday. repeat 3x .... then fade. :)

  11. i like this post and the comments. like the grimace thinamajig, i learned a lot!

    hehe.. i sing d haberday song almost everyday coz i do it everytime i soap my hands before i rinse it. para malinis talga

  12. Anonymous9:58 pm

    I think that if you don't get any profits for singing anything, it's okay... or else all the videoke places would close down. I remember though this version when I was a child:

    Happy birthday to you, you belong to the zoo.
    With the monkey and the donkey,
    and the big kangaroo.



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