June 15, 2013

PUSHING BACK AGAINST INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY OVERREACH. A song written in 1893 is still under copyright. Or is it?

Now, the documentary film company says it has “irrefutable documentary evidence, some dating back to 1893, [which] shows that the copyright to ‘Happy Birthday,’ if there ever was a valid copyright to any part of the song, expired no later than 1921 and that if defendant Warner/Chappell owns any rights to ‘Happy Birthday,’ those rights are limited to the extremely narrow right to reproduce and distribute specific piano arrangements for the song published in 1935.”

Regardless, copyrights last too long. Here’s a short piece I wrote recently for Popular Mechanics, and a much longer one (though still not all that long by law review standards) that Rob Merges and I wrote for the Harvard Journal on Legislation.

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