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FILM by Shane “Public Domain” Hnetka

It’s time for my annual Dog Blog series “31 Days Of Horror”. Every day in October I’ll write about a classic fright flick at www.prairiedogmag.com. Why? Because Halloween. More on that in a minute.

Happy Birthday To Us

Warner Music has said it owns the song “Happy Birthday To You” for decades. Anytime anyone used the song in a film, TV commercial, stage play or even a restaurant, they’ve had to pay royalties to Warner. Lots of people thought this was sketchy but who wants to tangle with corporate lawyers? So Warner did quite well with this racket.

In 2013, filmmaker Jennifer Nelson crashed the birthday party and filed a class-action suit against Warner Music. Nelson was working on a doc about the song — she’d paid $1500 for the rights — but discovered evidence suggesting ”Happy Birthday To You” should be in the public domain. Turns out the melody was written by a couple of teachers in 1893 and originally called “Good Morning To You”. Somewhere between then and 1935, someone wrote the “happy birthday” lyrics. A 1935 ownership claim led to the creation of Birch Tree Group Limited, which enforced the copyright. Warner bought Birch in 1988 and has raked in at least $2 million a year ever since.

Unfortunately for the corporate giant, on Sept. 22 a Los Angeles federal judge agreed with the filmmakers and threw out Warner’s copyright claim. “Happy Birthday To You” is now in the public domain where it belongs. And Warner Music’s reign of birthday terror is over.

It’s Hammer Time

Every year’s web-only “31 Days Of Horror” series has a special focus. In the past I’ve written about my personal horror favourites, the all-time classics, horror movies from around the world and many other terrifying topics. This year? I’m tackling Britain’s greatest movie company: Hammer Film Productions. From 1957 when Hammer released its massive international success The Curse Of Frankenstein to the 70s, when a new breed of fright flicks edged it out, Hammer released more than 50 films and reigned as the king of movie horror.

It’s a bloody great legacy — and you can celebrate it with me all month long in 31 Days of Hammer. See you at www.prairiedogmag.com.

Shane Hnetka is a Regina film and comic book nerd. In the months when he’s not posting daily entries about horror movies he writes Dog Blog’s weekly “Sunday Matinee”.

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