HAVE YOU EVER wondered why restaurants make up ridiculous songs to sing "happy birthday" to customers? No one knows the words or melodies, so no one sings along. Why do restaurants do this, instead of just singing the "Happy Birthday to You" song that everyone knows and loves, the one every kid has sung to him or her at birthday parties? The reason is because it is illegal for restaurants, in fact for anyone, to sing "Happy Birthday to You" unless a royalty fee is paid for permission to use the song. Although the song is an important part of American popular culture, it is also copyrighted, and its owner AOL Time Warner is entitled to a royalty fee whenever it is sung or played.
Murphy, Sherry Lynn
"Unlimited Congressional Power Under the Copyright Clause in Article I of the Constitution: Eldred v. Ashcroft,"
University of San Francisco Law Review: Vol. 38
, Article 5.
Available at: http://repository.usfca.edu/usflawreview/vol38/iss3/5