Warner/Chappell Still Happy on Birthdays
by Pamela Chestek • July 12, 2008 • copyright
I’m a little late to the game, but I just got around to reading Robert Brauneis’ “Copyright and the World’s Most Popular Song,” available here, blogged here, here, and here. It’s an interesting and thorough investigation into whether “Happy Birthday” is still protected by copyright. The telling of the story covers initial ownership of all kinds, sole, joint, and work made for hire, the layers of copyright ownership in derivative works, the transfer of ownership under the Copyright Acts of 1909 and 1976, and failure to comply with formalities forfeiting copyright. It’s a fascinating lesson in how difficult it can be trying to untangle copyright ownership. One takeaway for me was that the problem will only get worse because of the extension of copyright term; not only does copyright outlast the life of the author, but also anyone who might have firsthand knowledge about the creation of the work. Professor Brauneis has some suggestions on what can be done.
Similar story on the “Footprints in the Sand” poem here, HT to Techdirt.