For decades, the song “Happy Birthday” has only appeared in movies or TV shows under specific circumstances: Namely, when the producers decide that it’s worth spending as much as $10,000 for the right to use a song that it’s hard to believe someone actually owns the rights to. The tune for “Happy Birthday” was published in 1893, copyrighted in 1938, and sold in 1988 to a division of Warner Music. Its origins almost certainly date much earlier than that, though–the song published in 1893 is based heavily on a song from 1858, and that version may not be the original, either.
In other words, the copyright to “Happy Birthday” has been dubious, at best, for years–and as of last night, it’s no more. A federal judge ruled the claim illegitimate, finally setting the song free and into the public domain that it probably should have been in for the past 80 years. That’s good news for filmmakers who want to lend some veracity to their birthday scenes–but it also means that we’ll no longer see the weird knockoff versions of “Happy Birthday” that movies and TV shows have been coming up with in order to avoid paying for the rights to the song. As we enter this bold new era, where the characters we see on the screen celebrate birthdays the same way that we have forever, let’s offer a send-off to the decades’ worth of “Happy Birthday” substitutes that have admirably filled in for the song with this supercut–assembled in 2012, but newly relevant–and say goodbye to “Futurama Birthday Song” and “It’s Your Birthday, Slut” in favor of the more traditional alternative.