Creative Commons, the nonprofit organization behind (among other things) those popular online copyright licenses, recently turned 10 years old. To mark the occasion, the Free Music Archive has launched a contest to replace the “Happy Birthday” song with a new tune that people could use for free.
The traditional song is not in the public domain: It was acquired in 1988 by Warner Music Group, which reportedly collects “upward of $2 million a year from film and TV fees off the song,” and their copyright is not scheduled to expire until 2030. As Paul Collins demonstrated in Slate in 2011, that copyright claim is highly dubious, but it has not yet been successfully disputed, in part because it is probably cheaper to simply pay the fee than to challenge the claim in court.
Sometimes, though, movies and shows avoid the fees by using their own birthday compositions. The FMA collected a bunch of those alternatives in the video below. As usual, Mister Rogers wins. (Sadly missing: the birthday song Jack Black performed on Saturday Night Live several years ago, probably the greatest alternative to “Happy Birthday” ever written.)
TODAY IN SLATE
Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola
Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.
It Is Very, Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice
The U.S. Is So, So Far Behind Europe on Clean Energy
Even if You Don’t Like Batman, You Might Like Gotham
Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom
This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059
Meet the New Bosses
How the Republicans would run the Senate.