Should Happy Birthday Still Be Under Copyright?
November 29, 2012

Idea Channel this week, in looking at how the “Happy Birthday” song is still legally protected, takes on a subject dear to my heart: how to balance copyright with, as they put it, “adding to the pool of freely available culture”. It’s a complex question, and I think they do a good job of pointing out conflicting factors and pressures.

He also makes Disney Star Wars jokes. But there are some striking facts in there, too, about how copyright has gone from 14 years to “life of the author plus 95 or 120 years”.

3 Responses  
Thad writes:  

Did you happen to read Derek Khanna’s paper on copyright reform? It was released by the Republican Study Group a few weeks ago, and was probably the single most imminently sensible summary I’ve ever read of what’s wrong with modern copyright and how to fix it.

So of course it was immediately retracted and Khanna was fired.

I expect you can probably still find the PDF, though; I think it was only about a 10-minute read and well worth it. His suggestion was to grant automatic copyright for 14 years, then require periodic renewal, with a progressive pricing system based on how much the work had earned. And then expiration after around 56 years, with no further opportunity for renewal.

It was fascinating stuff. A pity, but not a surprise, that it’s exactly the sort of thing that gets you fired if you’re a congressional staffer.

Thad writes:  

Republican Study Committee, rather.

Johanna writes:  

I didn’t read the paper, but I saw some of the coverage of the situation. Yeah, it was an immensely sensible approach — and was one of the very few concepts that might attract more younger people to the GOP — so of course, it had to be repudiated.


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