p2p news / p2pnet: So, the Queen of England, Queen Elizabeth II, has just turned 80 and she’s so popular that apparently, the thought of her retiring or abdicating the throne can’t be entertained.
With all the flourish, pomp, circumstance and military precision afforded a royal anniversary of this caliber, one would think those who organised the spectacle would be aware of the rights of certain parties, and not infringe them.
According to several news reports, for example on CNN, as well as the live world-wide coverage of the celebratory event, brass bands played Happy Birthday To You to Her Majesty.
And yet not a word has been mentioned whether or not royalties were paid to AOL Time Warner, the legal and rightful copyright owner of the song.
According to Wikipedia and other public sources, "Warner claims that unauthorized public performances of the song are technically illegal unless royalties are paid to them."
Did the Royal Household, the British government, it’s territories, or whoever arranged the celebrations have permission from AOL Time Warner to publicly play their song? And if so, did they pay for the privilege accordingly?
According to FACTNet:
"ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) has been known to threaten legal action for the singing of Happy Birthday. In 1992 an ASCAP undercover agent caught a piano player at a New Jersey restaurant playing George Gershwinís [sic] "Rhapsody in Blue" without a license. ASCAP sued the restaurant and settled out of court for $5,500."
How did they know?
"ASCAP and BMI have field agents on payroll who listen to the radio and watch the newspaper listings. When a new venue starts offering live music, an agent will either show up in person or write a letter demanding money for the license. "If a nightclub or even a store refuses to buy the license, then ASCAP or BMI will hire spies, often local music teachers or semi-professional musicians who will make notes and testify in court as expert witnesses that on a certain date at a certain time a certain song was indeed played."
According to Snopes, "royalties are due for public performance, defined by copyright law as performances which occur "at a place open to the public, or at any place where a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances is gathered."
Were there any field agents, spies, or Spooks monitoring the airwaves and television stations covering the festivities? Surely this type of event and its coverage would constitute "a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances."
Although the copyright status of Happy Birthday To You (as well as the lyrics) is somewhat unclear (according to Wikipedia and FACTNet), AOL Time Warner demands royalties for public performances of the song. One can see this in the end credits of any film, teleplay, stage production, book, or other publication that has used or mentioned any part of the song: Happy Birthday To You used by permission of AOL Time Warner”, or words to that effect. One assumes that a license was granted for the use and that royalties were paid for the privilege.
The Queen and whoever arranged the parties and brass bands seem to have been unaware, or just didn’t care that if they didn’t have legal permission from AOL Time Warner, the act of performing the song violated international copyright laws.
I’m not aware of any news article stating that royalties were paid for the recent world-wide public performances of Happy Birthday To You.
If there was no license granted or royalties paid those responsible should be given hefty fines and jailed for several years for blatantly disregarding copyright laws and infringing on the rights of others.
After all, it’s the law, Mum.
catflap – p2pnet