If you thought episode 231 of The Reality Check was good, wait until you hear 232! The show starts off with Elan talking about the Happy Birthday Song and copyright. Adam then leads a spirited game of Science Fact or Science Fiction, Lent edition. Darren closes out the show by sharing his research on whether or not there is a cereal that helps improve sex drive.
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Happy Birthday Song
Copyright and the World’s Most Popular Song – Robert Brauneis
Exposing the happy birthday song
SFOSF – Lent
Are You Ready for an Extra Long Lent? – About.com
I was hoping we would just reuse the same Sex Drive image!
That was quite a funny episode, really enjoyable. I hope someone with some copyright knowledge contacts you with more information. When Elan said that the copyright was filed over 30 years after it was composed, and that it was filed by someone who didn’t actually participate in the composition of the work, I had to skip back and make sure I heard that right because it sounded so sketchy.
Regarding ‘Happy birthday’ song. I only had few classes in intellectual property in Canada and Australia, but there are some things Ellan said that I’m not sure are true…
But you don’t need to be exactly the same to be in a violation of intellectual property rights. In his 1990 hit “Ice Ice Baby”, Vanilla Ice sampled the bass line from the Queen and David Bowie hit “Under Pressure”. He slightly altered the rhythm of 2 phrases in the base line. Not the lyrics, not the whole music… And yet, it was enough to sue. So even if the lyrics were different for Happy Birthday song, the claim would be relevant.
Secondly, when you say it wouldn’t be worth going to court for few cents… That’s one main reason why class action are there for! Some cases are going for 40 cents… 10 millions people, it’s 4 M dollars! There are some lawyers in United States that specialize in class action. they are not paid, but take a certain percentage in case they gain the cause.
Thirdly, you said also that he didn’t renew their property rights at some point.. . I think there might be some difference in countries (So I’m less sure about that one). It’s not like patents: you don’t need to renew. In fact, you don’t even need to register to claim property rights. It’s just harder to prove that you were the creator. Some musicians or writers send a copy of their material by mail and don’t open the envelop. In court, the stamp of the letter register the date.
So if the rest of what you said is true, thank you for the tip, I’ll be rich with my first case! 😉
International copyright laws are generally treaties that require minimum standards for domestic laws as well as protection for works from other countries as if they were protected by your domestic laws. Increasingly we see these types of things enacted in trade agreements, which is a terrible trend for a variety of reasons. =P
In the US, you no longer have to renew, but in many situations (like this one) the relevant law is the law at the time the copyright-related activity occurred; at one point in time, formalities in both the form of formal registration and renewal were required, and Happy Birthday would have needed both to retain a valid copyright.
Also, sending of a copy of material by mail (“poor man’s copyright’) is not at all valid in the U.S. courts, so it’s pretty much just the waste of a stamp. Don’t do it. =P
Obviously, I am waaaay behind in Reality Check podcasts- I usually listen with my wife and I missed this one, which she mentioned to me. So I’ll listen to it and comment further soon. ^_^
Oh, and just to be clear, I’m talking U.S. copyrights. Canada’s are similar, and the international comment still applies, but they do have a different basis.