The more musically minded among you may recognise the opening bars to what the Guinness Book of Records describes as the most well known song in the English language.
It was written, and composed, by two sisters (Patty Hill and Mildred. J. Hill) in 1893, and while you can hear it everywhere, you might be apt to pay up to $700 if you sing it.

The song is, of course, “Happy Birthday to You” although those lyrics weren’t added until around 1912, when they first appeared in print. But is it free to sing?
Well, therein lies the problem.
According the European Union, songs don’t become copyright free until 70 years after the death of the writer, and Patty Hill died in 1946. Therefore it’s still under copyright. (held by Edgar Bronfman Jr. and his group of investors, after they purchased it from the Warner Music Group in 2004)
Still think it must be free? Well, in 2008, Warner Brothers collected around $5000 a day from “artists” singing the ditty, and in America (where the copyright originates) it is still under private domain until 2030.
So, if you do know anyone special whose birthday it happens to be, sing it softly.
And carry your chequebook.


About Mike Grace

Constitutio Ergo Sum
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