"Happy Birthday, Sue You"

xsedrinam

macrumors 601
Original poster
Oct 21, 2004
4,347
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A quick search didn't show this has run, elsewhere, so:

My son attends a University and waits on tables at a local Italian restaurant for spending $. He recently told me the waiters are not allowed to sing the original "Happy Birthday" song and must make up different jingles because of copyright laws on the song.

He also said he'd heard that Michael Jackson was the one who had purchased the rights to the song. True or False?

Are restaurant employees infringing on copyright laws if they elect to use the melody and lyrics to sing the original Happy Birthday song to a celebrating customer? :eek:
 

clayj

macrumors 604
Jan 14, 2005
7,475
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visiting from downstream
Try singing the Futurama Birthday Song (as sung to Nibbler on his birthday):

What day is today?
It's Nibbler's birthday!
What a day for a birthday
Let's all have some cake!

(and then Fry adds "and you smell like one, too!")
 

iGav

macrumors G3
Mar 9, 2002
9,025
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Doesn't a similar thing apply to music (instrument) shops? they pay a flat rate per annum to cover customers playing copyrighted music when trying out instruments in their shops.
 

floriflee

macrumors 68030
Dec 21, 2004
2,707
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What's wrong with having a popular song copyrighted? Just because so many people in the world know it and sing it, and just because it's such a simple tune doesn't mean that it has to be "open source" or so to say. Apparently, the song isn't that old so I don't see why it shouldn't/couldn't be protected by copyright if the owners/composers so willed it.

The purpose of copyright isn't to make people have to pay for EVERY performance (showers-singing is safe). It's mainly only applicable in situations where the performer can profit from it or when you are in a public place where many people may hear it. Private home use isn't a problem.
 

Dr.Gargoyle

macrumors 65816
Oct 8, 2004
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lat: 55.7222°N, long: 13.1971°E
floriflee said:
What's wrong with having a popular song copyrighted? Just because so many people in the world know it and sing it, and just because it's such a simple tune doesn't mean that it has to be "open source" or so to say. Apparently, the song isn't that old so I don't see why it shouldn't/couldn't be protected by copyright if the owners/composers so willed it.

The purpose of copyright isn't to make people have to pay for EVERY performance (showers-singing is safe). It's mainly only applicable in situations where the performer can profit from it or when you are in a public place where many people may hear it. Private home use isn't a problem.
Still, don't think it is a bit too much to have street musicians and waiters pay a fee for singing for you?
I am not sure if the profit from these fees covers the cost of administrating the fees. If this holds in a court of appeal, I believe we will not have waiters sing nor and streetmusicians will be fewer.
Do we really want that kind of society?
 

beatsme

macrumors 65816
Oct 6, 2005
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iGav said:
Doesn't a similar thing apply to music (instrument) shops? they pay a flat rate per annum to cover customers playing copyrighted music when trying out instruments in their shops.
I think if you want to play music (like in a club or a bar or any place with a juke box) you have to pay a licensing fee to ASCAP. You basically rent the entire catalog, and then play whatever you want.

BMI, the other music publishing co., doesn't charge...or so I'm told.
 

floriflee

macrumors 68030
Dec 21, 2004
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Dr.Gargoyle said:
Still, don't think it is a bit too much to have street musicians and waiters pay a fee for singing for you?
I am not sure if the profit from these fees covers the cost of administrating the fees. If this holds in a court of appeal, I believe we will not have waiters sing nor and streetmusicians will be fewer.
Do we really want that kind of society?
Somehow I don't see Time Warner going after a street singer for singing happy birthday unless they're making bank off of it. It's not in their interest to go after someone when it will costs more for them to get what they're due through legal action. Restaurants, on the other hand, may potentially be a different story (I don't think they'd go after the individual waiter).

I don't have a problem with street singers and waiters making up their own songs to sing to me. That's the beauty of creativity. Besides, it makes the singers come off as more unique.
 

CoMpX

macrumors 65816
Jun 29, 2005
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New Jersey
Flowbee said:
Spoken like someone who's never written a song. :rolleyes:
I guess thats true, however I did write a few songs. Then again, they don't have that catchy tune that everyone wants to sing at birthday parties. :rolleyes:

The fact that it's copyrighted doesn't bother me, just the fact that singing it at a restaurant to customers seems a little...over the top.
 

beatsme

macrumors 65816
Oct 6, 2005
1,204
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floriflee said:
Somehow I don't see Time Warner going after a street singer for singing happy birthday unless they're making bank off of it. It's not in their interest to go after someone when it will costs more for them to get what they're due through legal action. Restaurants, on the other hand, may potentially be a different story (I don't think they'd go after the individual waiter).
yea they wouldn't. But at the bar where I worked (years ago), we had a stereo system set up and we'd play pre-recorded music throughout the place. One day my boss, the owner, gets a letter from ASCAP, saying that if we intend to play music in the establishment, we're going to have to pay them a $5000 per annum licensing fee. He ignored it.

About a month later, he gets a letter from ASCAP's lawyers, saying that if we don't pay there would be legal action in the very near future. So he paid.

How ASCAP even knew the place existed, I'll never know.
 

Dr.Gargoyle

macrumors 65816
Oct 8, 2004
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lat: 55.7222°N, long: 13.1971°E
floriflee said:
Somehow I don't see Time Warner going after a street singer for singing happy birthday unless they're making bank off of it. It's not in their interest to go after someone when it will costs more for them to get what they're due through legal action. Restaurants, on the other hand, may potentially be a different story (I don't think they'd go after the individual waiter).
I hope you are correct, but knowing how big cooperations have acted in the past...
floriflee said:
I don't have a problem with street singers and waiters making up their own songs to sing to me. That's the beauty of creativity. Besides, it makes the singers come off as more unique.
Just because you can sing, it doesnt mean you can create music. I fear we will have a much quieter society where music is less common.
 

MacNut

macrumors Core
Jan 4, 2002
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I don't know about you but I hate when people sing to me in a restaurant. I feel like sliding under the table.:eek: Imagine how the people feel that have to sing a tacky birthday jingle about 100 times a day.:)

As for the song itself, wasn't it written by a school teacher? It is copyrighted, thats why non of the restaurants can sing it, ever been to outback or any of the chains, they all have a generic song.
 

Abstract

macrumors Penryn
Dec 27, 2002
24,415
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Location Location Location
CoMpX said:
The fact that it's copyrighted doesn't bother me, just the fact that singing it at a restaurant to customers seems a little...over the top.
They don't sing it in restaurants. I've never heard any restaurants have their staff sing it to a customer. It has always been a song they made up themselves, and I always thought it was because the restaurant wanted to be unique or creative. Now I know the real reason. :eek:


iGav said:
Doesn't a similar thing apply to music (instrument) shops? they pay a flat rate per annum to cover customers playing copyrighted music when trying out instruments in their shops.
Dr.Gargoyle said:
What is next, you have to pay a fee since you might be singing a copyright protected song in the shower?? I am for making sure an artist can make a living on their work, but this is ridiculous.
But I do think it's fair to have a copyright on the song. I can even understand how singing it in a restaurant is breaching the copyright (well, I can sort of understand, anyway), but iGav's example is ridiculous if true.
 

Zwhaler

macrumors demi-god
Jun 10, 2006
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Dr.Gargoyle said:
What is next, you have to pay a fee since you might be singing a copyright protected song in the shower?? I am for making sure an artist can make a living on their work, but this is ridiculous.
Pretty soon people with be copywritng words!