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squire
From: Christchurch
Since: May 2013
Posts: 30

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Happy Birthday Copyright

After some disturbing rhetoric in the DQ thread, I did some research...

Is Happy Birthday song copyrighted in New Zealand?

I don't think so.

USA bases their decision on a dubious 1935 publication of the (1893 tune, 1912 lyrics) Happy Birthday song. American Copyright law is 95 years after this 1935 date, i.e. 2030.
(There is a suit scheduled through the American courts in November this year which will hopefully resolve this to the 1912 date and thus make the song public domain there)

But in Europe where Copyright law is death of author plus 70 years, Happy Birthday's Copyright finishes in 2016 (Patty Hill, co-author, died in 1946).

New Zealand has the 1994 Copyright act and that is death of author plus 50 years. So the Happy Birthday copyright finished in 1996.

So, need we worry?

Squire Films
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2017 - One Drop Fairytale Winner: Best Bad Film & nominated Best Use of Technical Element
2015 - Hopeful Gardens Black Comedy nominated Best Costume Design & Best Use of Line
2014 - Morg Film within a Film
2013 - And So, To Sleep... Converging Storylines
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R17
From: wellington
Since: May 2013
Posts: 179

Interesting question...

doesn't the winner get nominated for international film festivals though?

Best to go by international copyright law... in any case if Disney have their little mitts on it, you have NO chance - whatever the law is... Warner is probably the same... You can also pay to have copyright extended I believe... likely well worth it for such a well known tune so I would be surprised if this hasn't happened...

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dramamike
From: Wellington
Since: Apr 2011
Posts: 1367

Having spoken recently with someone in the copyright industry his advice was to leave anything like this well alone.
For a competition like this its a absolute nightmare of a door to open.

All films need to be clean. It only takes one record company to take offence and the lawyers will be all over it like a rash.

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squire
From: Christchurch
Since: May 2013
Posts: 30

... and I will answer my own question... after some more digging in the mire of international treaties.

New Zealand signed the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic works originally in 1928 (modified by some more conventions in later years: UCC in 1952, TRIPS in 1994, et al) and this covers the reciprocity of copyrights from other countries.

The important part of Berne is the opt-in or opt-out "Rule of the shorter term". If opted in, you take the shorter of the two copyright lengths: source country's period of copyright, or your own rules.

NZ opted out, which means we apply the source country's copyright length. (c.f. European Union opted in, so this is why they get Happy Birthday in 2016).

So, sadly, my glee was unfounded. And we are stuck.

The best we can hope for is the Happy Birthday court case later on this year.

Squire Films
2018 - Potem Immortales Musical + Heist
2017 - One Drop Fairytale Winner: Best Bad Film & nominated Best Use of Technical Element
2015 - Hopeful Gardens Black Comedy nominated Best Costume Design & Best Use of Line
2014 - Morg Film within a Film
2013 - And So, To Sleep... Converging Storylines
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SloppyJoe
From: New Zealand
Since: Apr 2014
Posts: 19

Definitely copyrighted here - I'm involved in a restaurant and we got a cease & desist letter for singing happy bd to customers so now "sing" a made up version.

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HereForTheBeer
From: Hamilton
Since: Jul 2011
Posts: 52

Wait, what? You can get done for copyright for merely singing the words to a copyrighted song in public? That's taking the law way too far. Would that really stand up in court?

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SloppyJoe
From: New Zealand
Since: Apr 2014
Posts: 19

Yip it was something the restaurant did regularly - no fine but a firm warning!

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Yossarian
From: Scouting is a thing
Since: May 2011
Posts: 38

There's not even really any point in looking into copyright law, because no one uses it. Any major corporation who has enough money and a vested interest can do whatever they want.

I'm fairly confident that no copyright law anywhere in the world says "And if the potential copyright violator is a German living in New Zealand you can have the FBI (completely illegally, even by US law re their jurisdiction)and local law enforcement storm their house with guns waving everywhere and arrange extradition of said German".

I'm fairly confident no copyright law says "Right now it says death of the author plus 70 years, until it reaches 70 years from Walt Disney's death and then we'll change the number again, obviously"

I'm fairly confident no copyright law says "You can't copyright characters already in the public domain (until after Disney makes a cartoon of the story and then their version is copyrighted".

Etc etc ad nauseum.

I make music to go with pictures, and music to just be by itself. You can email me if you would like:
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Sam Spooner
From: Auckland
Since: May 2012
Posts: 91

in reply to Yossarian:

In other words, we are all screwed.

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Yossarian
From: Scouting is a thing
Since: May 2011
Posts: 38

P. Much

I make music to go with pictures, and music to just be by itself. You can email me if you would like:
thebemshaswing@gmail.com
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squire
From: Christchurch
Since: May 2013
Posts: 30

Yay. Finally.

The song Happy Birthday is now public domain.

Squire Films
2018 - Potem Immortales Musical + Heist
2017 - One Drop Fairytale Winner: Best Bad Film & nominated Best Use of Technical Element
2015 - Hopeful Gardens Black Comedy nominated Best Costume Design & Best Use of Line
2014 - Morg Film within a Film
2013 - And So, To Sleep... Converging Storylines
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dramamike
From: Wellington
Since: Apr 2011
Posts: 1367

You called it!

2020 Lockdown The Nutbar News at Nine Urban Fantasy
2019 Depart'ners Buddy
2018 Thanks to the Academy Heist Ultra
2017 Forelsket Nutbar Films Buddy Sacrifice
2016 Con Troll Alt Delete Nutbar Films Horror Fan Favourite. City Finalist for Make-Up
2015 Hide and Seek Nutbar Films Mystery
2014 Confessions Nutbar, with a taste of Nimlin Film, within a film
2013 Made Maid Nutbar Films City Finalist for POV Shot Robot/Cyborg/Android
2012 I Still Dream in Colour Nutbar Films Action
2011 Raptured Golden Carrot Films Mystery
2010 Fraternal Fabrication Golden Carrot Films Twin
2009 I love you this much Golden Carrot Films Romance
2008 Luke Walker and the Golden Carrot William Shatner's Pants Animal
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clang
From: Wellington
Since: Apr 2011
Posts: 197

Make the song the compulsory element for next year's 48 Hrs? :)

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dramamike
From: Wellington
Since: Apr 2011
Posts: 1367

in reply to clang:

Or make the prop a birthday cake

2020 Lockdown The Nutbar News at Nine Urban Fantasy
2019 Depart'ners Buddy
2018 Thanks to the Academy Heist Ultra
2017 Forelsket Nutbar Films Buddy Sacrifice
2016 Con Troll Alt Delete Nutbar Films Horror Fan Favourite. City Finalist for Make-Up
2015 Hide and Seek Nutbar Films Mystery
2014 Confessions Nutbar, with a taste of Nimlin Film, within a film
2013 Made Maid Nutbar Films City Finalist for POV Shot Robot/Cyborg/Android
2012 I Still Dream in Colour Nutbar Films Action
2011 Raptured Golden Carrot Films Mystery
2010 Fraternal Fabrication Golden Carrot Films Twin
2009 I love you this much Golden Carrot Films Romance
2008 Luke Walker and the Golden Carrot William Shatner's Pants Animal
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