Happy Birthday to the Hill Sisters


I was thinking about restaurants and how the wait staff all have clever versions of the "Happy Birthday" song. I've heard all the talk about how copyrights won't allow them to sing it. So in case I ever buy a restaurant, what are the laws regarding the Birthday Song?

-- Steve the Libra, the net

The laws are, no commercial use, musically or in print, without publisher's permission until the copyright runs in 2030. The heirs of the Hill sisters of Kentucky own the rights to this 1893 ditty that began life as "Good Morning to You." Rampant copyright violations in the 1920s and 1930s inspired one of the sisters to take the whole thing to court. So if your wait beings serve free cake with a chorus of "Happy Birthday to You," first check to make sure it's not to a table of ASCAP employees.

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