Copyright Law

New copyright-free birthday song revealed after contest judged by law prof

A New Jersey radio station has sponsored a competition for a new “Happy Birthday” song—one that doesn’t require payment of a licensing fee.

The winner, “It’s Your Birthday,” was selected by a panel of judges that included Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig, Bloomberg Law reports. Radio station WFMU teamed with the Free Music Archive to replace the copyrighted song with one in the public domain.

“Happy Birthday to You” was registered for copyright in 1935, though it was first published in the 1800s by two sisters who taught elementary school, Bloomberg Law says. The copyright, which won’t expire until at least 2030, is now held by Time Warner, which acquired the copyright in 1998. The song reportedly brings in $2 million per year in licensing fees for films, TV shows and advertisements, Bloomberg reports.

Above the Law isn’t impressed with the winner. “Larry Lessig picked this?” the blog says. “He may need a hug.”

The Free Music Archive also lists second and third place winners.

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