I own the Chevys in Le Mars, Iowa. When you eat here your birthday, expect to hear one thing: “Happy, happy birthday from all the Chevys crew. We wish it was our birthday, so we could party, too!”
We don’t sing the original “Happy Birthday” song because that belongs to Warner Brothers. Yes, I’m aware that a US District Court recently revoked Warner Brothers’ rights to it, but I will not let some unelected judge tell me what is and isn’t copyrighted.
Like many children, I was taught in Sunday school that Patty Smith Hill and her sister Mildred J. Hill wrote “Happy Birthday to You” in 1893, then assigned the rights to Clayton F. Summy. The successor to Summy’s company then sold them, in 1988, to Warner/Chappell Music Inc.
Here are more things believe:
Decisions about who owns songs should be left up to individual chain restaurant franchises. If you really want to dine at a restaurant that encroaches on the rights of a great American company like Warner Brothers, take your business elsewhere. I hear the Chili’s in Vermillion sings “Happy Birthday to You”—and has cold flautas.
The Bible is clear on the matter of copyright: “Thou shalt not steal.” If Warner Brothers claims it owns a song, then it is stealing to sing it. My faith teaches me copyrights are not something that man can pass around like the flu.
I am on the right side of history. At this moment, America is leaning towards Warner Brothers not owning “Happy Birthday.” However, the nation will eventually right itself. In 50 years, Americans will look back and wonder how we ever thought such a popular song could ever belong in the public domain and not the safe embrace of a media giant.
Our nation can still come together. This Tuesday evening, I invite everyone to join me at Chevys in Le Mars for 50%-off appetizers. Then we’ll join hands and sing “America, the Beautiful.” Well, a song like “America, the Beautiful.” I believe that particular song was wrongly placed in the public domain and in fact belongs to Sony Music. Instead, here is a patriotic song I came up with: “Country, country, we back you, from sea to sparkly sea! We wish it was July 4, because we like to be free. Olé!