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Birthday Song's Copyright Leads To a Lawsuit For the Ages

Soulskill posted about a year and a half ago | from the and-many-more dept.

Music 442

New submitter chriscappuccio sends this excerpt from the NY Times: "The song 'Happy Birthday to You' is widely credited for being the most performed song in the world. But one of its latest venues may be the federal courthouse in Manhattan, where the only parties may be the litigants to a new legal battle. The dispute stems from a lawsuit filed on Thursday by a filmmaker in New York who is seeking to have the court declare the popular ditty to be in the public domain, and to block a music company from claiming it owns the copyright to the song and charging licensing fees for its use. The filmmaker, Jennifer Nelson, was producing a documentary movie, tentatively titled 'Happy Birthday,' about the song, the lawsuit said. In one proposed scene, the song was to be performed."

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In other news (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44006271)

I've copyrighted the phrase "fuck all the lawyers", so you need to send me a check if you want to use it.

Re:In other news (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44006387)

I'm not sure you could claim that this is an original work of authorship.
Perhaps you could word it as a catchy jingle ^_^

1st? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44006281)

Hip Hip Hurray!

forced corporate jocularity (4, Funny)

Thud457 (234763) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006483)

Chili's:
Happy happy birthday from the Chili's crew, we wish it was our birthday so we could party too. HEY!

Carraba's:
Tanti auguri a te
Tanti auguri a te
Tanti auguri a te from Carraba's
Tanti auguri a te.

Bennigan's:
Happy Happy Birthday
On your special Day
Happy Happy Birthday
That's why we're here to say
Happy Happy Birthday
May all your dreams come true
Happy Happy Birthday
From Bennigans to you!

All Chotchkie's waiters are required to wear at least 15 pieces of flair.

Re:forced corporate jocularity (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44006553)

At the geek compound, hemos would give you a birthday blowjob. He hummed happy birthday while doing so, but there were no copyright violations since the melody is in the public domain.

Re:forced corporate jocularity (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44006643)

Why would anyone go to low-class, fast-food dumps like those for their birthday?

Re:1st? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44006513)

For she's a jolly good fellow,
For she's a jolly good fellow,
For she's a jolly good fellow,
And so say all of us!

Protecting the arts and artists (5, Insightful)

torkus (1133985) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006299)

Right? /sarcasm

I'm glad someone is pushing this topic (finally) and this is the perfect example. It's one thing to protect artists but the never-ending copyright extensions doing nothing of the sort. They ensure the media companies can generate recurring profits but, by and large, provide limit benefit to those actually responsible for the work. Oh wait...corporations are people now too.

Hopefully this is decided firmly, not on some silly technicality, and sets a precedent for other cases so common-use media can be pushed into public domain. Maybe someone will rule that copyright law is unfair, unconstitutional, or similar and FORCE our government to review this and move to a more rational policy.

Re:Protecting the arts and artists (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44006343)

Culture is being held ransom; music, literature, film, television... any medium you can think of is illegal to share, perform or otherwise widely enjoy without paying a gatekeeper. Thanks to the nature of the system if something isn't "saleable" it is left forgotten to rot in some media archive somewhere.

Back at the turn of the 20th century piano roll music was quite popular and sophisticated however much of it is lost forever because of the same kind of greed.

Re:Protecting the arts and artists (5, Insightful)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006351)

1) Put in reforms that revert copyright back to a shield and curb it's use as a sword.

And one of the best ways to do that is...

2) Disallow corporations to own copyrights. Require that they be in the name of actual persons and make it so they can only be leased to a corporate entity. That way the corporation is beholden to SOMEONE.

and of course

3) Get rid of Micky Mouse copyright.

Re:Protecting the arts and artists (1)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006363)

Yes, I screwed up "it's".

Re:Protecting the arts and artists (2)

theedgeofoblivious (2474916) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006417)

Disallow corporations to own copyrights. Require that they be in the name of actual persons and make it so they can only be leased to a corporate entity. That way the corporation is beholden to SOMEONE.

Oh, wow. I like that.

Get rid of Micky Mouse copyright.

That has two possible meanings, and I like them both.

Re:Protecting the arts and artists (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44006851)

Okay, so the large number of developers who write code would all "lease" the code to a corporate entity, likely under the same terms as the current copyright assignment. In short it would change nothing.

Re:Protecting the arts and artists (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44006477)

Screw these reforms. Just get rid of copyright and its ilk.

Re:Protecting the arts and artists (1, Insightful)

bjdevil66 (583941) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006515)

As much as I hate corporations pulling crap like this, this type of "corporations aren't REALLY people" precedent would create so much legal chaos that this would ultimately be a horrible idea.

Corporations are people, or they aren't.

But I do agree that the length of copyrights is a joke (with companies like Disney leading the way on that front).

Re:Protecting the arts and artists (4, Interesting)

Holi (250190) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006679)

Corporations are not people, they are a legal economic structure to protect the owners personal assets.

How can corporations be people when they are property?

Dartmouth v. Woodward; Southern Pacific (2)

tepples (727027) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006775)

The Supreme Court of the United States has recognized corporate personhood [wikipedia.org] since at least 1819. By 1886, the justices were unanimous that at least the equal protection provision of the Fourteenth Amendment applies to the associations of individuals called "corporations" as much as it does to the individuals severally.

Re:Dartmouth v. Woodward; Southern Pacific (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44006843)

Semitroll: wasn't slavery abolished? How did that wording go? What's the legal basis for a person being able to own a person-like entity?

Re:Dartmouth v. Woodward; Southern Pacific (1)

PortHaven (242123) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006883)

That is a brilliant argument...

Re:Dartmouth v. Woodward; Southern Pacific (1)

tepples (727027) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006933)

The members of the association own the association. If you own yourself, it's not slavery.

Re:Protecting the arts and artists (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44006869)

The problem with "corporations are not people" is I've yet to hear an argument about how that would work, that cannot be used to infringe on "the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances".

I dislike the idea of Apple/Ford/McDonalds/etc having as much power as they do, but unless the plan we implement protects the NRA, the EFF, fuck, even PETA, I cannot support it.

Re:Protecting the arts and artists (4, Insightful)

Migraineman (632203) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006567)

Also - copyright terminates when the author(s) die. None of this life-plus-eleventy-thousand-years crap. When you kick, your works revert into the public domain ... we *all* benefit from that.

Re:Protecting the arts and artists (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44006711)

Every time this suggestion comes up, I repeat that I don't want the law to create more incentives for homicide.

Then don't include life of the author (4, Interesting)

tepples (727027) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006795)

Then don't include life of the author in the equation at all. Give individual works the same copyright term as works made for hire.

Re:Protecting the arts and artists (3, Interesting)

mwvdlee (775178) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006653)

1) Copyrights are supposed to encourage the creator to create more work. As soon as the creator is dead, the chances of her/him creating more work are somewhat diminished. At most a copyright period should be for N years or natural death of the creator, whichever comes first.

2) Corporations should be allowed to have some sort of copyright, after all, their payments to creators enables the creators' work. But these copyrights could be much smaller and of a different nature. Like an "exclusive license" that lasts upto the point the product is no longer actively published. "Actively" could be reasonably specified in some way; i.e. after the first year where sold copies amount to 10% of first-year sales.

3) How about getting rid of Mickey Mouse entirely?

Post-mortem copyrights are supposed to... (4, Interesting)

tepples (727027) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006813)

Copyrights are supposed to encourage the creator to create more work. As soon as the creator is dead, the chances of her/him creating more work are somewhat diminished.

Post-mortem copyrights are supposed to encourage the author's estate to complete the author's unfinished works rather than shredding them. With no post-mortem copyright, Christopher Tolkien might not have allowed The Silmarillion to see publication.

Re:Protecting the arts and artists (1)

TWiTfan (2887093) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006521)

never-ending copyright extensions

Thank you Disney and Sono Bono. Even The Emperor and Darth Vader must now bow to Disney.

I hope the judge opens the case by saying (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44006307)

"By the way, today happens to be my birthday."

Re:I hope the judge opens the case by saying (4, Funny)

Stormthirst (66538) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006381)

+1 Funny - I so hope he does.

Unfortunately, I suspect the media company's immediate response would be to file a motion to have the judge removed because of obvious bias.

Re:I hope the judge opens the case by saying (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44006461)

Today *is* my birthday, you insensitive clod!

And all I got was this lousy MS Office on my iPhone...

Re:I hope the judge opens the case by saying (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44006725)

danna nanana Today is your birthday.... danna nanana It's my birthday too

factoid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44006317)

The reason you rarely hear "Happy Birthday" being sung in a TV Program or a film is because of this copyright. It's actually expensive to do it legally.

This is for a song that was ancient when your parents were born.

Welcome to the Machine.

Re:factoid (5, Funny)

Mitchell314 (1576581) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006429)

Welcome to the Machine.

Come with me. On behalf of Pink Floyd's publishers, we have matters to discuss.

Re:factoid (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006495)

Oh, man. Welcome to the Jungle.

Re:factoid (5, Funny)

TWiTfan (2887093) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006773)

When I violated Guns-n-Roses' copyrights, Axl Rose not only sued me, he threw me out of Guns-n-Roses. I never even knew I was *in* Guns-n-Roses!

Re:factoid (2)

fibonacci8 (260615) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006855)

The maintainers of Upton Sinclair's estate would like to have a few words with you.

Re:factoid (1)

Thud457 (234763) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006801)

Welcome to My Nightmare.
oooops...

Re:factoid (1)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006511)

They are getting over their digital fear, actually. There are about ready to allow access to their catalog on Spotify. Wish You Were Here is available on Spotify already and when it hits 1 mil streams the whole catalog gets released.

Re:factoid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44006599)

The wall has been available in youtube for free for very long time, so I'm not sure if they had that fear in the first place.

Re:factoid (2)

hedwards (940851) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006609)

Sort of, the tune itself is public domain, but the words aren't. The public domain words, IIRC, are the ones for "What day is today?" Pretty much as sung by Elzar on Futurama.

Re:factoid (4, Insightful)

TWiTfan (2887093) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006727)

What really pisses me off is that even a public domain work these days is subject to being "reclaimed" into copyright, if there is money to be made. Just look at "It's a Wonderful Life." No one would have even remembered that movie if it hadn't fell into the public domain and became popular to air around Christmas (since anyone could do it). But when someone realized it was actually making money and had became popular again, of course some corporation immediately sweeps in and reclaims copyright on it. Now it only airs once or twice a year on NBC and no one gives a shit.

We need more than that (5, Insightful)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006319)

Bring back the original copyright terms [wikipedia.org] :

The original length of copyright in the United States was 14 years, and it had to be explicitly applied for. If the author wished, he could apply for a second 14year monopoly grant, but after that the work entered the public domain, so it could be used and built upon by others.

How about "25 years without any extension, then it goes into the public domain". What these money-hungry Hollywood and publishing executives don't seem to realize is that everything DRM'ed will be lost in time, like tears in the rain.

14 years automatic is fine (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44006499)

However, to get copyright on a work that is not plain readable (i.e. encrypted or compiled), the plain readable version MUST be available. Either by having the actual source code submitted to the copyright office of your home country (or designated other signatory to Berne) or the decrypt key to the same.

Lost in time like tears in the rain. (1)

Saint Gerbil (1155665) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006523)

No great loss "Tears in the rain" wasn't that greater song I'm not even 100% if it charted ?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tears_in_the_Rain_(song) [wikipedia.org]

Re:Lost in time like tears in the rain. (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006769)

I was referring to something else [youtube.com] .

Re:We need more than that (4, Insightful)

Racemaniac (1099281) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006535)

Wouldn't 5 years be more than enough? i thought part of the goal was to stimulate artist to make new stuff. if you can ride it out for 25 years on 1 hit you once scored, it's not much motivation to create something new -_-

Re:We need more than that (2)

hedwards (940851) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006681)

No, that might help the 0.000001% or so of groups that get a hit right away, and even then the artists would get very little. What's more, it means that if you don't spend a crap load on ads right away, you might not get any money at all for the work. It's hardly unheard of for a band to take more than 5 years to hit it big, so the early stuff wouldn't be something they would make any money off of.

As for riding it out, I see no reason why they shouldn't be allowed to do so. We don't require construction workers to tear down their house every 5 years if they built it themselves, or for landlords to do the same, just because they're "coasting" on something that they did once.

What's more, the risk involved with releasing a new movie or album is sufficient that you'd never pay back the risk for such a short copyright term. And, why should I buy the album now when I'd be able to wait 5 years and download it in full quality for free? 25 years at least ensures that anybody that really wanted it has probably already bought a copy.

Re:We need more than that (1)

stanIyb (2945195) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006741)

No, that might help the 0.000001% or so of groups that get a hit right away, and even then the artists would get very little.

Well, sorry, but if you can't make money in that amount of time, maybe they need to find a better business model. Your fears are unfounded.

We don't require construction workers to tear down their house every 5 years if they built it themselves, or for landlords to do the same, just because they're "coasting" on something that they did once.

What does this have to do with government-enforced monopolies over ideas?

And, why should I buy the album now when I'd be able to wait 5 years and download it in full quality for free?

I think you'll find that most people would be willing to pay if it meant they'd get to see it before the 5 years are up. Why? That's what we're already seeing, but the conditions (copyright terms are more than 100 years) are more extreme. We live in an environment where you can get just about anything for free easily (through piracy), but many people still choose to pay. If what you said were true, no one would be making any money.

Re:We need more than that (2)

LocalH (28506) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006859)

As for riding it out, I see no reason why they shouldn't be allowed to do so. We don't require construction workers to tear down their house every 5 years if they built it themselves, or for landlords to do the same, just because they're "coasting" on something that they did once.

This actually highlights the difference between copyrighted works and physical goods. Construction workers don't get a royalty check every time a house they helped build gets sold. Landlords get paid regularly because they own the physical good and are renting it to you on an ongoing basis. We're living in a world where copyright is rapidly being expanded and physical goods are being eschewed in favor of digital downloads, which are not usually transferable in the same sense as a physical copy of the work. Imagine if an architect had the ability to restrict sales of buildings that they designed if they don't get a cut of the sale price. That's what "Big Media" wants to be able to do (look at the situation with the Xbox One, where even with physical discs you're being restricted from freely buying and selling used games without paying Microsoft).

Long tail royalties (1)

tepples (727027) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006861)

We don't require construction workers to tear down their house every 5 years if they built it themselves

Nor do we give construction workers a recurring royalty for continuing to live in a house that they built.

What's more, the risk involved with releasing a new movie or album is sufficient that you'd never pay back the risk for such a short copyright term.

I thought movies made most of their money during the box office and initial home video and premium video on demand releases. Do long tail royalties decades out really outweigh those, especially if a work isn't made available to the public at all? What sort of royalties have the film Song of the South and the TV series Spartakus and the Sun Beneath the Sea been earning lately?

Re:Long tail royalties (0)

stanIyb (2945195) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006915)

My bare snap has become a meteor, and it's crashing down on your very existence!

Re:We need more than that (-1, Flamebait)

stanIyb (2945195) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006927)

Now, I am here....I came to fuck your ass deep! I am known as Carn the god, I rape and rape until I can't rape no more! Prepare for your ass to be violated by my huge dick!

Re:We need more than that (2)

mark-t (151149) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006763)

5 years might be enough for some types of works, but for other more long-lived works it's not practical. 25 years isn't really *THAT* long... certainly it'd generally be the case that anyone born during a period when a work was copyrighted, or if a particular work was created and copyrighted while they were growing up would still likely spend most of their adult life in a period where it wasn't. Pushing a century, however, as things are right now, is utterly absurd.

Fixed, reasonable length, and COMPLETELY unextendable copyright terms are needed for copyright to have any hope whatsoever of still having any relevance in the future. Publishers are otherwise only going to get increasingly reliant on systems that introduce layers of complexity to the work that are not strictly required for the work to be utilized as intended, simply as a means to keep people from making what they think are unauthorized copies, and so for the consumer, all these additional complexity layers do is create more additional points of failure for the work that reduce its value for the very person who would actually have patronized the publishers of the work.

Re:We need more than that (1)

plebeian (910665) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006803)

I think giving people a 5 year window to commercialize their product would only work if they could extend it providing they are actively licensing their product during the initial exclusivity. Imagine how the Dixy Chicks would have felt if George Bush could use their songs without their permission? I agree that more should be in the public domain but you should be able to extend the copy write for up to 50 years if it proves successful within a short time frame.

Re:We need more than that (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006835)

I guess it could depends on what exactly is copyrighted. Five years seems awfully short for something like a movie but could be appropriate for a song or for software. The original idea of 14 years was probably derived from something because it seems such an odd number to pick.

How about the following copyright lengths:
Software: 5 years
Music/Songs: 8 years
Movies: 14 years

Things like characters should be trademarked so that nobody else can use the "Mickey Mouse" character but the movies using that character would still only be copyrighted for 8 years.

Re:We need more than that (1)

FunPika (1551249) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006613)

What these money-hungry Hollywood and publishing executives don't seem to realize is that everything DRM'ed will be lost in time, like tears in the rain.

Even if they realize it, it is unlikely that they care if a movie they released is impossible to watch 100 years from now, as long as they get their money now.

Re:We need more than that (1)

stanIyb (2945195) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006689)

Meh... that's too long. It shouldn't be longer than 10 years, and some might say that even that is too long.

Re:We need more than that (1)

IP_Troll (1097511) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006697)

While I agree with your sentiment, what you propose is much more difficult than you think.

The present copyright term and "automatic rights" instead of "rights after registration" are not spontaneous American ideas, they are requirements of the World Intellectual Property Organization Copyright Treaty.

You will have to get the whole of Europe/ Asia to sign on to whatever changes you propose.

Or America could withdraw from the treaty, but that would mean Americans would lose their rights in treaty countries.

Re:We need more than that (1)

DaveyJJ (1198633) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006735)

...publishing executives don't seem to realize is that everything DRM'ed will be lost in time, like tears in the rain.

I see what you did there ... lost "like tears in the rain". The Philip K Dick Foundation's lawyers would like a word, please.

Re:We need more than that (2)

Trevelyan (535381) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006817)

In the US because of the Mickey Mouse Protection Act [wikipedia.org] or rather the Copyright Term Extension Act [wikipedia.org] .

Basically every time Mickey Mouse is about to go out of copyright and into the public domain, Disney lobby for copyright to be extended.

Given that they actively use MM, their Trade Mark on him will never expire. Isn't that enough? Why continuously extend copyright?

The word "limited" (2)

intermodal (534361) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006323)

Constitutionally, copyright is meant to be for a limited time. What we have today hardly reflects the constitutional intent behind allowing the concept, originally used in other countries as a form of censorship, in the fledgling States.

Re:The word "limited" (5, Insightful)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006389)

What I find funny is that the "strict constitutionalists" in our politics today have no problems with IP. People like Clarance Thomas talk about "original intent" but never have a problem with these matters. If there is one thing that has outstripped original intent of the constitution it's copyright. It wasn't put there for people to make money. It was put there to encourage people to be creative. Copyright in perpetuity does NOT encourage people to be creative.

Re:The word "limited" (1)

intermodal (534361) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006519)

On this we certainly agree.

Re:The word "limited" (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44006669)

What I find funny is that the "strict constitutionalists" in our politics today have no problems with IP. People like Clarance Thomas talk about "original intent" but never have a problem with these matters.

Because those people believe there's an implicit "and all other rights go to corporations, and corporate profit is the highest possible law in the land" aspect to the Constitution.

These are the people who believe if we did away with government the world would be a better place because companies would be free of those pesky regulations which makes them pay a minimum wage or not pollute.

Copyright in perpetuity does NOT encourage people to be creative.

No, but it does maximize corporate profits, which is the name of the game.

If Di$ney was losing profits due to shorter copyright terms, the stock market would fall. Why do you hate America?

Re:The word "limited" (2)

paiute (550198) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006857)

People like Clarance Thomas talk about "original intent" but never have a problem with these matters. If there is one thing that has outstripped original intent of the constitution it's copyright.

Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution, known as the Copyright Clause, empowers the United States Congress:
To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

How does current copyright law outstrip the original intent? The original intent is clear: Congress defines the length of copyright. Otherwise the authors of the Constitution would have specified the length rather than leaving it to Congress.

Re:The word "limited" (4, Insightful)

Nimey (114278) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006913)

Arguably the current copyright system doesn't promote progress of science or useful arts, and there's no indication that copyrights will ever be for a limited time since Disney buys a new law whenever Steamboat Willie is about to leave copyright.

Re:The word "limited" (1)

Stormthirst (66538) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006399)

It seems there are a lot of things that were originally (or amended to include) aren't reflected in current law. Libel being an obvious example. If the 1st amendment were strictly adhered to, you couldn't sue someone for libel.

Re:The word "limited" (2)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006547)

It seems there are a lot of things that were originally (or amended to include) aren't reflected in current law.

Because the government just does whatever it wants (as long as the public doesn't get too angry). Nothing new here.

Re:The word "limited" (1)

hedwards (940851) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006717)

No, it's because the constitution was never intended to be interpreted literally the way that POS constitutionalists like some of the conservatives on the court seem to think.

Making it literally interpretable would result in a constitution that was thousands of pages long, and pretty much impossible to comprehend by anybody at all. The constitution says what it says, and it's up to the court to establish what exactly it means.

It sucks sometimes, but it means we don't have to hold a constitutional convention every time we need a minor tweak made to the constitution.

Re:The word "limited" (2)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006793)

But it's thanks to that nonsense that we have abominations like the Patriot Act, the TSA, free speech zones, and all that other garbage. I'm not exactly sure what the solution is, but I don't like this "living document" nonsense that pretty much gives them free reign. Want change? Amend it, but don't outright ignore it.

Re: The word "limited" (1)

AvitarX (172628) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006625)

I assume you mean the government couldn't do such? I see no reason the lack of criminality of someone saying something false interferes with my ability to sue for the damages of the falsehood. We are allowed to sue for many non criminal acts that Congress has made no laws about mild negligence for examples.

Re:The word "limited" (1)

fldsofglry (2754803) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006687)

If the 1st amendment were strictly adhered to, you couldn't sue someone for libel.

You mean if the 1st amendment were strictly adhered to, you couldn't be found guilty of libel as a crime, right? Libel is generally involves a civil suit (which doesn't involve guilt or innocence), but some places make it a crime. In our case, federal law doesn't have libel crimes (due to the 1st amendment), but some states have criminal laws on the books for libel http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_defamation_law#Criminal_defamation [wikipedia.org] You could sue just about anyone for just about anything. Doesn't mean it is a valid argument and you'll win.

Re:The word "limited" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44006887)

If the 1st amendment were strictly adhered to, you couldn't sue someone for libel.

Freedom of speech isn't absolute. It's pretty darn close in the US, but come on--the right to publish malicious lies about someone without consequences?
I don't see how that freedom would benefit anyone.

Re:The word "limited" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44006911)

Libel is an obvious example of you not understanding the difference between a crime and a tort.

Happy Birthday to the Bank. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44006329)

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

- Originally copyrighted in the 1930s.

Re:Happy Birthday to the Bank. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44006507)

Be thankful that idea of singing a song to celebrate birthday wasn't a patent. But then again patents do have an actual limit within a life time.

Re:Happy Birthday to the Bank. (2, Insightful)

mwvdlee (775178) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006747)

To promote the Perpetual Stream of Revenue, by securing for however long it takes to lose all value to Authors' and Inventors' Employers the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

- Ammended copyright in the 2000s.

"For the ages" (1)

nitehawk214 (222219) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006335)

Slashdot might not be RockPaperShotgun in terms of title puns, but every once in a while you get a good one off.

Old York Times (1)

Gothmolly (148874) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006339)

This was covered on NPR back in early March. Way to step up to the plate, old media.

Hilarious (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44006349)

It would be funny if it werent so sad.

We don't need it (1)

RevWaldo (1186281) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006369)

We've got a new birthday song! So there!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JaiusnHOF9A [youtube.com]

.

Re:We don't need it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44006709)

This one is much better.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yXkT54U6ZmI

Come look at what the Muslim fucks are doing now! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44006403)

The religion of peace [washingtonpost.com]
 
And you think these fuckers won't kill you for saying that there is no god? Get your head out of your ignorant ass.
 
FUCK MOHAMMAD!!!!! FUCK ALLAH!!!!! FUCK ISLAM!!!!!!

Simple solution (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44006431)

Just sing something else: www.youtube.com/watch?v=2f2PCWYAZQc

But it's... (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44006469)

...already IN the public domain! Hapi Berth Dey Two Ewe. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2f2PCWYAZQc

Genuine case; but cheap publicity too (1)

divec (48748) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006471)

This seems to be an interesting example of a court case being fought for the publicity it generates. It's surely cheaper to file this suit than to advertise his film in conventional ways. However unlike cases such as SCO v. IBM, the litigant probably believes he would win the case if it came to trial. The newsworthiness of the suit lies in the audacity of the defendants in aggressively asserting the copyright in the first place.

Re:Genuine case; but cheap publicity too (2)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006617)

And their movie is about the song (censored), so the trial itself could become part of it.

thanks copyright...thanks. (2)

nimbius (983462) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006529)

the song is over a hundred fucking years old. its practically an american standard and so ubiquitously used as to be unenforceable. in any other country a judge would laugh the plaintiff out of the god damn room. if it doesnt go public domain we can definitely start a campaign against it. banthebirthdaysong.com or nomorebirthdaysong.org should point to a creative-commons or public-domain version of a song that anything from a synthesizer to a ten year old can sing without having to hire johnny cochran.

Re:thanks copyright...thanks. (2)

strength_of_10_men (967050) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006649)

Your wish is granted [unhappybirthday.com]

Interestingly enough, while the lyrics are copyrighted, you can hum the tune all you want, copyright-free, since the tune itself has fallen out of copyright.

Nice idea, but it'll never work... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44006541)

Sorry, but there's a profit to be had.

Of course it's public domain ... (3, Insightful)

wylderide (933251) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006555)

... Which is why they're gonna rule in favour Warner, because screw the public. They aren't a corporation. What business do they have owning things that can be owned privately and exploited by individuals. Individuals meaning individual corporations: The real people.

Abraham v. Alpha Chi Omega (1)

Picass0 (147474) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006573)

In 2008 the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion against copyright holders after failure to enforce trademarks for more than 40 years.

The defendant Thomas Kenneth Abraham for years was a producer of decorative fraternity and sorority paddles. In 1990 thirty-two fraternities and sororities commenced contacting Abraham asking his to pay a license to use certain house names and logos. The defendant asseted a "laches defense" which is when a copyright holder falls asleep which regard to their trademark enforcement as he had already been creating the paddles for 30+ years. In 2008 the plantiffs sued and and were declined monetary relief after failing to enforce their copyrights for so long. They were however awarded an injunction against further use by Abraham, which of course doesn't line the attorneys pockets.

How long have people been singing Happy Birthday? How many people even knew there was an "author"? I would have assumed it was a 'traditional' and hence public domain.

Certainly there has been no enforcement of copyright over the years, and I'm guessing latches would apply.

Re:Abraham v. Alpha Chi Omega (2)

jcorno (889560) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006821)

You're confusing copyright and trademarks, which are legally unrelated. They don't even fall under the same branch of government. Trademark is under the Dept. of Commerce (Executive branch), and copyright is under the Library of Congress, which is administered directly by Congress.

Re:Abraham v. Alpha Chi Omega (2)

Holi (250190) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006921)

You are extremely confused when it comes to IP laws.

Copyright != Trademark.

Laches defense would only exist if they had not actively been pursuing violators, which they have. How can you say "there has been no enforcement over the years", There has been so much enforcement the ridiculousness of it has entered our pop culture (The Simpsons have joked about ti, so has Futurama, iCarley, Sports Night, the Venture Brothers and so many more). I mean have you ever wondered why you never hear it on TV, you always here "For he's a jolly good fellow" because that is in the public domain.

Mortimer & Monte must be happy about this! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44006589)

The classic woot video on this topic is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ra23fh-xJ78 [youtube.com] .

10 years (3, Insightful)

stanIyb (2945195) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006593)

This sort of thing is why copyright should only last for 10 year (or less). No extensions. No nothing. 10 (or less) years. If you can't profit in that amount of time, that's life.

IP Rights are an abuse... (3, Informative)

PortHaven (242123) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006767)

They do not foster innovation, they impede it. Nor do they benefit the inventors, almost all "inventions" now go to big corporations. Who then abuse them all the more.

Very few musicians see even 10% of the $$$ their music earns.

Our present IP laws are so horrendous, society would be better without them. Sadly, politicians are so bought so we'll only see it get worse.

***

And yes there are better solutions. Patents, should only be held by inventors. And should only be granted for truly novel and new inventions. Nor should a patent prevent anyone else from building a better/cheaper mousetrap. Rather, a patent should merely grant a 10% tax break to the holder or the company of their employ.

This would encourage innovation, keep inventors employed (instead of immediately being laid off by companies after their invention is complete), rather companies would put inventors on their payroll just for the tax break. And then they'd be free to stay home and continue inventing.

That is a far far better solution than our current system which is forcing companies like Google to spend $8 billion buying Motorola to defend themselves against frivolous patents granted to Apple on decades old technologies. And in most cases, not an invention but the mere patenting of a use.

ok now (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44006785)

I'm doing a documentary about my efforts to get Stairway to Heaven declared public domain. After all every kid with an electric guitar has played it.

Copyright 120 years+!? (2)

Midnight Thunder (17205) | about a year and a half ago | (#44006909)

Looking at Wikipedia page it indicates the song is from 1893 (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Happy_Birthday_to_You [wikipedia.org] ). How the heck can anyone claim copyright on it at this point? Sure the last of the two artists died in 1946, meaning it is currently death+67 years, but I still think it is way overboard and agree with it finally needing to be put into the public domain.

I think we need to revise copyright such that the copyright after death is much shorter, but add a notion of attribution in each place for after its expiration.

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