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Happy Birthday

Happy F***in' Birthday!

By Petr Knava | Music | September 23, 2015 |

By Petr Knava | Music | September 23, 2015 |

In Terrible News For Everyone Who Loves Music News, Creed are getting back together!

Just kidding! Just kidding! I apologise for the needless amounts of preventative Van Gogh-style auto-ear-removals that must’ve just happened, but I wanted to drop some hypothetical REALLY bad news first so that the actual news wouldn’t seem quite so terrible. I don’t want you guys walking under a black cloud of misery all day. After all, this is essentially the breakfast post. And who the hell wants Creed for breakfast?


No, in actuality, the terrible news for everyone who loves music is that a US federal judge has ruled that nobody actually holds the copyright to the Worst Song In The World (which sometimes goes under the pseudonym ‘Happy Birthday.’)

Or, rather, more accurately: that copyright claim that Warner/Chappell — which you might recognise as one of those all-encompassing corporate tentacles that encircle the globe — have been using for years to squeeze money out of people wanting to express their joy at someone’s birthday in a terrible, tuneless way? Yeah, that claim is actually nonsense.

The history of the rights to the composition is murky, but in essence the copyright that Warner/Chappel were using, filed in 1935 and acquired by them in 1988, protected only the (terrible, terrible) arrangement of the music, and not the (terrible, goddamn awful) lyrics and therefore the (atrocious, why god WHY?!) song itself.

According to the LA Times, Randall Newman, the attorney for the plaintiffs fighting Warner/Chappell said, upon hearing the verdict, that the song was, ‘finally free after 80 years!’ Now, this is a strange thing to say when a grotesque, terrifying beast like ‘Happy Birthday’ loses what minimal chains it once had. Obviously, right after leaving court, Mr Newman got in his car and drove down to a lonely beach on the coast to return to his main job of holding a candlelit vigil until the rising of Cthulhu and the Great Old Ones.

Obviously, for most of music lovers, the disintegration of ‘Happy Birthday’s’ chains is just a symbolic loss. The fact that this giant, anti-melodious turd now rightfully belongs to the public and therefore can be flung anywhere at any time won’t actually affect your lives in any practical way. I’m sure that at some point you’ve been annoyed by the song in a restaurant, and yet rare was the occasion that a troupe of Warner attorneys came stomping in, Simpsons-lawyer-gang style, brandishing a cease and desist and bringing sweet respite. For me, however, it is a very real practical loss, as I have totally threatened that action many times when annoyed by the song in a public place. Sure it only works, like, half the time at best, but by the time you’re done you’ve already ruined the atmosphere and the party is in no mood to sing the song anymore either way, so it’s win-win. Incidentally that strategy is the most fun when applied at your own birthday!

OK, I admit: I exaggerate for comedic effect. In actual fact the song was scheduled to lapse into public domain next year, so I only had another few months left of ruining parties anyway. (That’s in the EU, that is. Otherwise that could’ve been a perfectly good reason to emigrate to the States, where the copyright was to hold for another 14 years after that, and I hear you guys are severely lacking in whiskey-clutching killjoy Czech-Brits). But alas, this process has now been expedited, and so the once technically-imprisoned ‘Happy Birthday’ is now free to roam the wilds and experience the wind on its Medusa-like face without fear of reprisal.

Now if only someone could do this for the music of Creed, except in the opposite direction, that would be great. Just brainstorming here, but a possible court ruling could be: whenever a radio station plays a Creed track, the offending DJ gets balefired out of existence. You know, something proportional and fair.

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Petr is a staff contributor. You can follow him on Twitter.