Jul 29, 2020

Happy happy birthday, we hope today is great

Now that "Happy Birthday" is public domain, future generations watching old movies and TV shows aren't going to understand the jokes about non-infringing birthday songs.

Or maybe current generations already don't understand them? I dunno, has anyone actually used the happy birthday song in media now that they're allowed to, or is the fact that they're now allowed to not interesting enough to justify it? Maybe filmmakers and TV writers are going to continue avoiding it just out if inertia, or because the song is just a cliché they want to avoid. Maybe unique birthday songs will be a normal part of the viewing experience for years to come.

I bet the genre that's gotten the most use out of the public domain-ing is found footage films; it's a good, free way to add verisimilitude to spooky old home movies of family gatherings we're supposedly watching. Filming children's birthday parties was like the #1 use of consumer video cameras, until everyone had a video camera in their pockets at all times and it's no longer novel. But still, for 20th century period pieces, I bet it's handy.

I don't think found footage films are super common anymore either, though, and I imagine it's too hokey to include in an actual proper cinematic movie film. Maybe it was better when the birthday song was off-limits, because it inspired people to think of creative ways around the restriction, or funny ways to subvert it.

Either way, big thanks to U.S. District Judge George King for at least giving us the option. He's a jolly good fellow, no one can deny that.


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