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


TreeA stand of eucalyptus trees in Kuluin on the Sunshine Coast recently faced the axe as a result of a decision by QCAT in November last year.  The trees were situated on a suburban block of land in Fremantle Place at Kuluin on a property which adjoined three residential properties whose owners claimed to be unreasonably impacted on by the eucalypts which not only dropped leaves, but blocked natural sunlight.

In handing down his decision, QCAT Member McLean Williams was required to apply the provisions of the Neighbourhood Disputes (Dividing Fences and Trees) Act 2011 which gives the Tribunal power to order pruning or removal of a tree where it causes substantial, ongoing and unreasonable interference with the neighbour’s use and enjoyment of their land.  It was found that the eucalypt trees did, in fact, cause unreasonable interference to all three complaining neighbours and ordered that ten out of the thirteen trees be reduced or removed.  The Tribunal had received evidence from the neighbours to the effect that the trees constantly caused the accumulation of leaf litter in their swimming pool, littered their outdoor entertaining area and filled their roof gutters with leaves.  For one of the neighbours, the trees also caused severe shading which made the installation of solar panels on the roof of their house, unviable.

The decision is in some respects surprising given that for at least some of the trees, the independent arborist appointed by QCAT had recommended severe pruning rather than removal but the presiding Member went so far as to order that they be cut down completely.

No doubt readers will have differing opinions as to the merit of the decision and whether trees should be preserved at any cost, but it could be suggested that one’s home is no longer one’s castle when a local tribunal can tell you to cut down your trees lest a neighbour suffer some leaf litter or shade!

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