It’s a short tune consisting of only six notes, but one which is known and used around the globe yet until earlier this year, “Happy Birthday to You” was considered to be subject to copyright held by Warner/Chappell Music.  The birthday compilation is thought to have had its genesis in a Kentucky kindergarten in around 1893 at which it was sung to kindergarten children as “Good morning to you”.

Since then, the copyright has changed hands a number of times and has resulted in Warner/Chappell Music reaping millions of dollars in royalties each year because whenever it is used in television shows, movies, print or even publicly, Warner/Chappell claimed to be entitled to a royalty fee.

But all that has now changed because a US Federal Court Judge has recently ruled that the copyright originally filed by another entity in 1935 only gave them rights over specific arrangements of the music rather than the actual song itself.

The decision may seem rather trivial but it means that people can sing or play the song now in restaurants, schools, clubs,  and other public venues  without fear of being hit with a law suit by a music industry behemoth from across the globe.

So now, when it’s that special day of the year for you, feel free to sing that familiar tune as loudly and boldly as you like, because you can’t be made to pay for the privilege!


by Travis Schultz



As one year ends and another begins, it’s often a time for reflection.  For those of us in business, it’s a time to refocus our business plans and budgets for the year ahead;  And not least of all, in the budget setting process is the allocation of advertising spent.

It’s been interesting to see that over the last year, print media has actually ended the previous decline in circulation and has seen some small upward trend in circulation volumes.  But perhaps most significantly of all was the fact that online advertising has overtaken TV as the largest advertising category (by spend) in Australia, now accounting for 34.2% of advertising expenditure (compared to TV which now has only 31.7% of the advertising market).

As consumers’ behaviours change, so must business shift its marketing focus.  Those businesses operating in the media sector need to find ways to reinvent themselves or they will very quickly find that their business has about as much life left in it as that woolly mammoth they found in a Siberian ice tomb a couple of years ago!

But with the proliferation of websites in hundreds of thousands of categories, I wonder how advertisers are going to see the online value proposition in the longer term.  At present, search and directory engines online account for about 52% of online revenue whilst general display ads account for about 29% of expenditure and classifieds about 19%.  When there are so many websites for consumers to use, how are advertisers to decide which sites do, and which do not provide value for money.  Where the results are measurable (such as search engines and the like), the value proposition is perhaps more easily understood.  But with display advertising on social media sites, industry sites, media web pages and the like, it will be interesting to see how advertisers view the value proposition in the future, even with targeted advertising through the placement of cookies and data recording.  The value proposition becomes even more vexed with the advent of tools like ‘AdBlocker’ that can now make websites ad free!  Even worse for advertisers is the development of applications like the browser plugin called ‘Adnauseam’ which clicks every blocked ad costing the advertiser even though you don’t see it!

There is always going to be a limit as to what business can afford to spend on advertising and marketing and that has always created competitive tensions between the various forms of media.  With the proliferation of online advertising opportunities and the corresponding dilution of traffic, I can’t help but wonder if over the next couple of years we are going to see a drift back to more traditional forms of media, and a resurgence in popularity of print, TV and outdoor?

Travis Schultz
Practice Group Leader
Schultz Toomey O’Brien Lawyers, Part of the Slater & Gordon Group
Ph: (07) 5413 8900
Fax: (07) 5413 8958