As of Tuesday, September 22, "Happy Birthday" is now in the public domain. Have you ever noticed that you never hear the actual "Happy Birthday" song in movies or on television? I didn't for the longest time, but once someone points it out to you and explains, you can't unnotice it. Through the ages, people can spot tons of "Happy Birthday" workarounds in film and television — some are incredibly blatant, because the show writers are clearly making a joke out of it, while others make it look as though they came up with a new birthday song on purpose. The only example I can point to is on 30 Rock because, what can I say, I'm a cultured individual. Luckily, I have the Internet to point me in the right direction on a few other birthday workarounds.
Regardless, television connoisseurs, showrunners, and everyone in between can rejoice. It's about to be a "Happy Birthday" free-for-all. On Tuesday, Judge George H. King ruled that Warner/Chappell Music (who has claimed ownership) does not actually have the right to do so. The group has been charging royalties on Happy Birthday since 1988, which they acquired from the Birch Tree Group. And they've been making about $2 million per year on "Happy Birthday". (YIKES.)
To celebrate this news, here are six "Happy Birthday" workarounds that are about to be past anecdotes that film students will one day read about in their history textbooks:
1. That One In "30 Rock"
With everyone singing in German and Jenna looking hella confused.
2. That Other One In "30 Rock" (The One That's Not In German)
With Jenna looking AWESOME. I honestly think there might be one more birthday workaround in 30 Rock that I'm missing — man, that show had LAYERS.
3. "Happy Birthday" UCB Style
What is it with Amy and Tina being so damn good with this rule?
4. Futurama's Signature Birthday Song
It's no Amy or Tina, but sure.
5. "Mister Roger's Neighborhood" Because We Needed A Retro Example
Hear that kids? Be careful of those candles!
6. The "Happy Birthday Song" In Waiting Because Yes To Ryan Reynolds
Don't even tell me that wasn't worth watching for Ryan Reynolds and Justin Long. It's Like He's Just Not That Into You meets The Proposal while singing "Happy Birthday" ... kind of.