It was announced yesterday that copyright claims on the worlds most popular English language song, “Happy Birthday” are in fact, invalid. The judge ruled that the copyright that was acquired by Warner/Chappel was only for specific arrangements of the music, not the song itself.
So, the lyrics to the 19th-century song, which is believed to have been composed by a Kentucky kindergarden teacher and her sister, are finally in the public domain. Apparently the sisters never laid claim to the lyrics, even when the song became popular and commercially valuable.
This is good news for filmmakers, as it seems that you will no longer have to pay massive licensing fees to feature “Happy Birthday” or simply resort to “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow”. With this new lease on “Happy Birthday”, we thought it would be a good time to review some of our favorite pop culture interpretations and likely legally questionable renditions of the song!
1. Stevie Wonder sings “Happy Birthday” at Quincy Jones’ 80th Birthday Celebration:
2. Jack Black sings “Happy Birthday” for the American Cancer Society:
3. “Happy Birthday Lisa” featuring Michael Jackson – The Simpsons (my personal favorite):
4. Jenna sings “Happy Birthday” to Paul Reubens — 30 Rock:
5. Ramones Sing “Happy Birthday” to Mr. Burns (The show must have shelled out for this one) — The Simpsons:
6. Blue’s “Happy Birthday” song — Blues Clues:
7. “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow” — Some Like It Hot:
8. Elvis Sings “Happy Birthday” to the luckiest human who ever lived:
What’s your favorite pop culture interpretation of “Happy Birthday”? Tell us in the comments below.