New Happy Birthday Song, Copyright-Free
Feb. 19 (Bloomberg) — That’s “It’s your Birthday!” by Monk Turner and Fascinoma.
If New Jersey radio station WFMU and the Free Music Archive have their way, it will soon replace the most recognized song in the English language, “Happy Birthday to You.” And it’s all because of copyright law.
The “Happy Birthday To You” melody was published in the late 1800s by two sisters who taught elementary school, and it was registered for copyright, as “Happy Birthday To You” in 1935. Time Warner acquired the copyright in 1998. The song reportedly brings in two million dollars a year from licensing for films, TV shows, advertisements and the like; it won’t enter the public domain until 2030 at the earliest.
WFMU thought it was dubious that the song still deserves copyright protection, but rather than mount a court challenge, it sponsored a competition for a new birthday celebration song. Among the judges were Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Lessig and Yo La Tengo’s Ira Kaplan.
As WFMU says, the new song puts the happy back into birthdays, and takes the cease and desist out of them.