1581: Birthday

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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I guess I need to apologize to my parents, friends, and the staff at Chuck E. Cheese's for all the times I called the cops on them.
Title text: I guess I need to apologize to my parents, friends, and the staff at Chuck E. Cheese's for all the times I called the cops on them.


xkcd turned 10 years old on September 30, 2015 (a week after the release of this comic). In this comic Randall honors his webcomic by singing to it the classic "Happy Birthday to You" song.

"Happy Birthday to You" is one of the most commonly sung songs in the English language (and is common in many others). Because of its age, ubiquity, and simplicity, it has long surprised people to learn that it was not in the public domain. Warner/Chappell Music claimed the copyright to the lyrics, and has demanded royalties for any recording, publication or public performance for commercial purposes. Total revenues for this song were estimated at US$2 million annually.

This strip refers to a court ruling from the day before the release of this comic, by a federal judge in California (George King), stating that the song is not covered by valid copyright (see Warner's 'Happy Birthday' Copyright Not Valid, Judge Rules). This ruling resulted from a lawsuit filed by Good Morning To You Productions (singer Rupa Marya and filmmaker Robert Siegel) against Warner/Chappel Music to declare Warner/Chappel's copyright claim in the song invalid (filing at [1]). With this ruling, the court declared that Warner/Chappell does not have a copyright claim to the song, and therefore the song can now be sung or published by anyone, in any context, without having to pay royalties to Warner/Chappell.

The ruling does not go so far as to declare the song to be in the public domain, leaving it more correctly defined as an orphan work. Randall seems to be celebrating the fact that this strip, which would have put him at risk for a lawsuit the day before, is now unlikely to be challenged since the odds of a new party appearing and successfully claiming copyright on the lyrics and subsequently demanding license fees is approximately zero.

Chuck E. Cheese's is an entertainment restaurant, geared toward young children, which routinely hosts birthday parties as part of its business model. Parties held in commercial venues tend to be a gray area for this kind of issue. Singing copyrighted songs at a private function is allowed, but the staff of a restaurant singing them to patrons could be considered a commercial performance, and potentially expose the restaurant to claims from the copyright holder. The title text suggests that Randall was at a family birthday party, witnessed someone (possibly the staff) singing "Happy Birthday", and called the police. This would be an extreme overreaction in any case (even if it were a violation, copyright infringement is a civil liability, not a criminal offense), but the decision that the copyright wasn't valid in the first place makes such an action even more indefensible.


[Caption above the frame:]
xkcd turns 10 years old this month.
In light of last night's court ruling in
Rupa Marya v. Warner/Chappell Music Inc.,
I would just like to say:
[The song text is written, with nine musical notes, three groups on each side of the text, above a birthday cake with 10 lit candles. The cake has two distinct layers. On each layer there are drawn 6 xkcd stick figures with small black bullets between them. The center bullet in the bottom layer is shaped like a heart. The figures at the edges can be difficult to recognize. The figures in the upper layer and from the left are: A man with a hat (hard to see if it is one of the recognized characters), White Hat, Megan, Pony Tail, Hairy and Cueball (hard to see him properly). Similar in the lower layer: Black Hat, Danish, Beret Guy, Rob, Cutie, and a girl (hard to see, but looks like girls hair, not a hat).]
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday, dear xkcd
Happy birthday to you

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http://www.cnbc.com/2015/09/23/happy-birthday-song-now-in-public-domain.html mwburden (talk) 11:09, 23 September 2015 (UTC)

https://ia601904.us.archive.org/13/items/gov.uscourts.cacd.564772/gov.uscourts.cacd.564772.docket.html 11:26, 23 September 2015 (UTC)

Why is there a <code> box around the transcript? Forrest (talk)12:51, 23 September 2015 (UTC)

Because someone wrote the text with a space between each line instead of beginning each line with ":"
Like this
Instead of like this --Kynde (talk) 13:29, 23 September 2015 (UTC)

There are nine musical notes, not six. 13:40, 23 September 2015 (UTC)

There are six musical notes (in pictures, two connected eighth notes are one note picture), not nine. 04:56, 25 September 2015 (UTC)

"Some might claim" seems wishy-washy to me. Perhaps it would be better to say "calling the cops in such situations is neither socially appropriate nor beneficial: this is the source of the humor in this comment." Djbrasier (talk) 14:15, 23 September 2015 (UTC)

Does calling the police on a potential copyright violation even do anything? Aren't you supposed to file a civil suit? 17:13, 28 September 2015 (UTC)

This appears to be one of the few comics with both Black Hat and White Hat. 15:47, 23 September 2015 (UTC)

I don't have a sub to law360, nor do I wish to bother giving them my throwaway email. What was the basis of the ruling? Why is this public domain now? -- NotLock (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

It's not, text updated. 06:39, 24 September 2015 (UTC)

The third line implies that "xkcd" should be pronounced as having two syllables. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Clearly you have never heard "Happy Birthday" sung to someone with a really long name. It doesn't matter if it's two syllables, you just stretch it out. 04:08, 24 September 2015 (UTC)
The song can accommodate names of different lengths, consider the following https://youtu.be/vWs3035D69k?t=1m23s 08:45, 24 September 2015 (UTC)

AFAIK The ruling only applies to the lyrics, they still have a valid copyright to the music, so if you sing the song you had better make sure it's to a suitable tune that is out of copyright! (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

As I understood it, the music itself is in the public domain and it's just the specific piano arrangement that was under copyright. Reproductions of the music are free and legal, reproductions of the arrangement is the only thing to watch out for. ‎ (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
it was ruled that their copyright only covers a specific piano arrangement which is not the tune in use today, so sing your heart out: 14:00, 24 September 2015 (UTC)

One in 366 xkcd fans turned to the page today and initially thought that Randall had used a code not dissimilar to what Google uses to change the banner to a birthday greeting on the users' birthday. I was one of those fans... :-) 09:33, 24 September 2015 (UTC)

You mean one in 365,25... ;-) Happy Birthday with yesterday! --Kynde (talk) 11:37, 24 September 2015 (UTC)
You mean four in 1,461... I've yet to see 0.25 of a fan ;-) — 08:51, 25 September 2015 (UTC)
If I've got my sums right, it'd be 400 in 146097 (+1 day every four years except not +1 every 100 years except indeed +1 every 400 years). Which factors down to... Ah, that's actually the simplest fraction (2x2x2x2x5x5 in 3x3x3x7x773, no mutuality of factors at all). But if you want to restrict XKCD readers to only those of an age of below 115, I suppose the above approximation will suffice... 14:47, 25 September 2015 (UTC)

On the cake most of the characters are separated by space and a dot, except beret guy and cueball who are separated by space and a heart, any thoughts? --Cris (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

the explanation says that is Rob to the right of the heart, and that Cueball is in the top layer. Personally I can't tell the difference between those two stick figures in this cartoon. --Martin (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
Yes that was user Comet trying to be funny. We do no longer use Cutie (which he also wrote) for Megan, and Rob only when he is a named character, else it is Cueball. Have fixed the problem. --Kynde (talk) 09:09, 19 July 2016 (UTC)
Heart in the middle of the cake! 04:56, 25 September 2015 (UTC)
Yes for sure. It is not anything to do with the two guys on each side. --Kynde (talk) 09:09, 19 July 2016 (UTC)

My father worked at Chuck E. Cheese's for 20+ years. As someone that was there on a regular basis (all the way back to Showbiz Pizza Time), I never saw them include "Happy Birthday to You" in their works. One of the more recent ones I remember is "You're a birthday star at Chuck E. Cheese" (lyric, not title). So I have to ask, is it as common as the current explanation suggests? 17:10, 28 September 2015 (UTC)

No. 01:13, 10 January 2019 (UTC)