“Birthdays are nature's way of telling us to eat more cake.” –Unknown
When editing The Ride, I was asked to delete lyrics from a scene I had written although I had only used one line of a Beatle’s song and had even given credit to the group. My editor informed me that using lyrics requires obtaining written permission and can be quite expensive. Copyright protection, I learned, is for the life of the composer plus 70 years.
I am allowed, however, to use song titles. This made no sense to me but I complied because I’d rather not take the chance of being sued. To me the scene was much better when my characters were singing the words aloud together at the top of their lungs. But, hopefully the reader can still ‘hear’ what I wanted to get across.
With this in mind, I thought it interesting to read in the Encyclopedia of Useless Information by William Hartston that “Happy Birthday to You” was composed by Mildred and Patty Hill in 1936. This means that the song should not be sung in public without paying royalties.
How many times might servers burst into this tune during one night in a busy family restaurant? Think of the income these ladies are missing out on! Either Mildred and Patti are quite generous with the use of their song, not into lawsuits, or they’re not familiar with this copyright law.
I don’t want to break any laws. Therefore, before my family has a chance to sing a lively rendition of this traditional song to me today, I must warn them to use only the title and skip the lyrics if we’re in a public place. After that, well…I plan to eat more cake.
Thanks for stopping by.
Tags: The Ride, copyright, Hartson, Encyclopedia of Useless Information, happy birthday,