Free Research Paper On The Song: Happy Birthday To You.

Type of paper: Research Paper

Topic: Song, Birthday, Copyright Law, Happiness, Copyright, Burger, Literature, Music

Pages: 5

Words: 1375

Published: 2020/12/28

The song: Happy Birthday is considered one of the most popular songs throughout the world. This song is performed for a century now and is traditional when sung to those who celebrate their birth anniversaries every year starting with uncomprehending infants and finishing with the U.S. presidents. It is usually sung to celebrate a person’s birth. It is the world’s most well-known and popular song. It has been sung hundreds of millions of times each year for over three-quarters of a century. It has been heard in outer space, at baseball stadiums, in movies and in domiciles from the White House to the most remote backwoods shack in Mississippi. This sing has been wired in to a vast of different music boxes, greeting cards, watches, toys, games and other tune-playing products. And it is the only song in the English language guaranteed to make people of all ages smile and sing along. The song, of course, is Happy Birthday to You.
Happy Birthday to You first appeared in a songbook in 1924, edited by Robert H. Coleman.
One of the authors is Patty Hill that was born in 1868. She was a professor working in education thus very influential and concocted the blocks of Patty Hill which later were widely used in schools across the country. She taught for over thirty years on the faculty of the University in Columbia Teachers College and also facilitated in funding in 1924 the Institute of Child Welfare Research at Columbia. Her older sister, who was born in 1859 and whose name was Mildred, was a successful and spectacular concert pianist, organist and composer. She was born on June 27, 1859. The recognizable melody by 1924 had been sung in many primary schools of America for more than three decades. The publication of the song eventually triggered a lot of legal wrangling around for the following century although this song was one of the most lucrative tunes of all time. Patty was a principal in a kindergarten in the town of Kentucky, developing a wide variety of teaching methods. The original song Happy Birthday to You was written back in the middle of 19th century. It was the moment when Mildred and Patty J. Hill, the two siblings, composed the Good Morning to All song to Kentucky’s kindergarten class. The song was published by them in their book of songs in 1893 which called Kindergarten Song Stories.  Although it was claimed that the idea of the lyrics was copied from other alike and very famous songs of 19th century, including Horace Waters and Happy Greetings to All published in 1885. This song appeared for the first time in 1912 in print, and undoubtedly it existed earlier. There were no copyright notices at that age. The first copyright was of The Summy Company in 1935, which authors were Mrs. R.R. Forman and Preston Ware Orem. In 1988 the song’s copyright was purchased for 25$ million by Warner Music while the song’s value was estimated at only 5$ million. It is claimed that according to 1935 copyright registration in the U.S. is due 2030 hence performances in any way of the song are not legal so Warner company should be paid its royalties. They were an amount of $700 in 2010. Copyright lasts for the life of the author(s) plus 70 years; since Patty Hill (the last surviving author) died in 1946 it is due December 31, 2016. It is still unknown who really rewritten the lyrics which eventually became a popular song at birthdays party. The first publication dates back in 1924 on Robert Coleman’s book. After that time, Happy Birthday song became popular. Jessica Hill, their another sister, in 1934, sued against illegal and unauthorized use of the song’s melody which was very similar to another melody Good Morning to All, which was also written by the Hill sisters. They should have foreseen the future arguments and battles over the copyright, therefore the trainee teachers were told not to write the lyrics down. Nevertheless, in about 1911 the word 'birthday' found its new way in versions of the tune which was first published in 1924. It didn't take a lot of time so the song appeared in the top ten new sounds on radio airwaves by the way without royalties. Happy Birthday to You song was performed in 1931 in the Broadway musical which was called The Band Wagon. Although later the third Hill sister, whose name was Jessica, took a stand and acquired for the copyright of the song in 1934, due to the fact that this song is very similar to Good Morning To All. After Patty’s death in 1946, the Hill Foundation set up in honor of the sisters and has collected half of royalties received since 1983.
The question of the Happy Birthday song’s ownership of the publishing rights evokes many arguments. John F. Sengstack who was an accountant in New York city bought the ownership in 1932 from the Clayton F. Summy Company. His son enlarged the father’s business, after his retirement, by buying a couple of other music publishers in 1957. The list included C.C. Birchard & Company. Sooner or later the name of the business was changed into the Summy-Birchard Company. Despite the fact the name of original author of the lyrics is unknown; Warner Music endlessly owns the copyright to the whole song. Therefore it earns millions from people who celebrate their anniversaries for a quarter of a century. For instance Walt Disney was ought to pay $5,000 to use this song in a parade. Not a long time ago the makers of Laszlo & Vilmos documentary in 2008, which plot was about cinematographers in Hungary, eventually paid $5000 to use the music in their documentary. All in all, public performances which include a restaurant, concert or any other public place, the royalties must be paid to the owning company. The only exception to this rule was performing of the song on Mars, in August. There are many arguments that Happy Birthday to You song actually belongs in the public domain. For instance Brauneis used more than 200 documents out of six historical archives from across the United States, to prove the ownership of the Hills' sisters. Nevertheless lyrics have never been recorded. Its copyright leaves a huge power to be a reason of incredulity that royalties still should be paid in order to use the song legally. In 1988, Music Group receives fee of more 2 000 000 per year due to their ownership. The Group has almost collected royalties from girls who were scouts for singing Happy Birthday to You at the campfire. Eventually magically transformed the song will be under copyright until 2030. That is 40 million of dollars each year. Brauneis explains that the Hill sisters managed to create a melody from previous different tunes, which is totally new, pointing out the another very similar song Good Morning.
The sisters were very hardworking and moreover disciplined team where Mildred was a pianist, and Patty a writer. Mildred Hill was an ethnomusicologist and Patty Hill worked very hard in order to receive a position of a professor at University of Columbia. Although she claims that she never wrote the lyrics.
Marilyn Monroe's performance to U.S. President John F. Kennedy was one of the prominent one which was held in 1962 of May. In 2009 in one of the iCarly’s episodes on TV, in which a character starts to sing but is stopped from doing so by another one because the song is not allowed to be sung in public so they continued with For She's a Jolly Good Fellow. Other prominent performances include Guns and Roses with the song Happy Birthday to You, and the Mariah Carey’s one. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, the song generated $15,000 to $20,000 per year. Through the 1960s, it made closer to $50,000 annually and over $75,000 during the 1970s. By the 1990s, the song was generating well over $1 million per year. In the last few years, WMG has pulled in over $2 million a year in royalties. It will continue to do so until the year 2030. The original copyright was supposed to have expired long ago, but copyright extension legislation passed in the 1970s and the 1990s extended the copyright by almost a century, giving the song 137 years of protection after the melody was first written.

 Reference list:

"'Happy Birthday' and the Money It Makes". New York Times. 26 December 1989. Retrieved March 7, 2013.
 Brauneis R. Copyright and the World's Most Popular Song. 2010.
Collins P. You Say It's Your Birthday. Does the infamous "Happy Birthday to You" copyright hold up to scrutiny?.  Retrieved August 9, 2011.
Guns and Roses - Happy Birthday John (Slash). February 27, 2014. <>
Mariah Carey-Happy Birthday to You. July 25, 2007. <>
Marilyn Monroe- Happy Birthday Mr. President. November 26, 2007. <>
  Russell C. Complete copyright: an everyday guide for librarians. American Library Association. p. 15. Retrieved June 14, 2013.

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Free Research Paper On The Song: Happy Birthday To You.. Free Essay Examples - Published Dec 28, 2020. Accessed July 06, 2022.

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