Artwork by Greg Harrison
Last year the Free Music Archive (a project spearheaded by Ken Freedman of “The Mighty” WFMU fame) fired the salvo heard round the copyright world (OK, actually just the indie rock/intellectual-property-rights-reforming/99% of the world, but still): they challenged all indie artists to unseat a certain century-old song’s supremacy at birthday celebrations worldwide. Yes, folks, a call to arms for a Creative Commons replacement for the big kahuna: “Happy Birthday to You”!
The Free Music Archive wants to wish Creative Commons a Happy Birthday with a song. But there’s a problem. Although “Happy Birthday To You” is the most recognized song in the English language and its origins can be traced back to 1893, it remains under copyright protection in the United States until 2030. It can cost independent filmmakers $10,000 to clear the song for their films, and this is a major stumbling block hindering the creation of new works of art.