Lawyers who freed 'Happy Birthday' into public domain sue over 'We Shall Overcome'

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On the other and, TRO and Ludlow Music are connected to a lot of folk songs, especially that considered “left”. I suspect all of Woody Guthrie’s songs were published trough them. Maybe even that early Pete Seeger song.

So they can’t be in the same place as the ones behind “Happy Birthday”.

Is Happy Birthday officially in the public domain yet? The September ruling didn’t do this, despite media reports saying it did.

Actually it just meant that Warner/Chappell didn’t have a valid copyright on it - which technically meant that the song is an orphan work. Someone could show up with evidence that they instead have the copyright on the lyrics.

In February Warner/Chappell was ordered to pay a $14 million settlement to those who had licensed the song, and when that process is over it could lead to a final judgement declaring the song to be in the public domain. But I haven’t heard of that happening yet.

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If this works, maybe they can go after the Lion King.

Can you own lyrics that contain a variable?

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The copyright was registered as an adaptation of an older song by Pete Seeger, Zilphia Horton, Guy Carawan, and Frank Hamilton. The “writers’” rights are administered by Highlander Research and Education Center, where Horton & Carawan worked. The modest copyright royalties are distributed as grants by Highlander to fund “arts, culture and community activism to organize for social, economic, and political justice to the benefit of African American communities” in the South.
Is the issue here that the copyright holders demanded an excessive royalty? Or do the plaintiffs just object to the song being held in copyright at all?

Woody Guthrie’s “copyright notice”, as quoted by Pete Seeger:

This song is Copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright #154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ours, cause we don’t give a darn. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that’s all we wanted to do.


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