Happy Birthday, Free Culture Movement

free culture logo

Just over a year ago, April 23, 2004, at Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, PA, more than 100 students met to launch the Free Culture Movement. These students had been organized by the Swarthmore students who sued Diebold and won after Diebold sent a cease and desist letter alleging violations of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act to the Swathmore university administrator which then shut down their website. A year later, there are nine chapters across the country, and more brewing around the world.

Creative Commons wanted to find an appropriate way to celebrate. So we put together this version of "Happy Birthday," sung by, we might say, some of the leaders of the free world (The EFF Staff, Mitch Kapor, Dan Gillmor, Brian Behlendorf, Ian Clarke, Jimmy Wales, Brewster Kahle, and Gigi Sohn). Of course, to do this, we had to license the rights from Harry Fox (who represent Warner Chappell Music, the copyright owner of the composition) — yes, "Happy Birthday" is still under copyright — but the folks at Harry Fox were willing to give us a pretty good deal. Unfortunately, that deal does not transfer, so while you're free to download this version and play it "for personal use", and free to engage in any "fair use" of the song, the rights we have to give don't include much more than that.

This is because clearing rights to use music, under our current system of copyright is very complex. You need to clear every element you use. So in this recording, Warner's owns the lyrics and the composition and we have a limited license to use those & make them available to you for your personal use. The loops and sounds are owned by a loop distributor and licensed to us under a limited license that means we can't make it available to you to remix. But we own the rights in the recording in its entirety. We can — and we do — license the rights to the recording under a Creative Commons Attribution license. But because the nature of music is that the recording, the lyrics and the music are inextricably linked, to be able to exercise any of your rights in the recording under the Creative Commons Attribution license other than for personal or fair use, you will need to contact Harry Fox or Warner Chappell Music for permission to use the lyrics and composition and PowerFX to use the loops and sounds.

Alas, them's the breaks for free culture for now. Maybe if the Free Culture Movement is successful, things might become a bit less complicated. But for the moment, all we can do is wish the students of FCM good luck, and ask you to help us help them. We've set up a donation box to raise money for the Free Culture Movement. So if you download the song, and would like to help, here's where to donate. All money collected will be used to support the Free Culture Movement.

Our license from Harry Fox requires that we make the following statement: song written by Mildred J. Hill & Patty S. Hill, publisher is Warner Chappell Music.

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Happy birthday is over! Thanks for listening and contributing!