Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday to you… You know the song. But did you know this little slice-of-life melody has only recently been released back into the public domain?
Before the ruling that followed a lengthy and costly court battle in 2015, one could not legally perform or record the song without paying a licensing fee.
“No one ever stopped me from singing Happy Birthday at a party,” you might say. But isn’t it interesting to learn that, at one point, for a single use that fee was $700, and while not everyone had to pay–you were by no means exempt. See the Wikipedia article.
In the company of a friend, Ray Bradbury had once been stopped by the Los Angeles police and questioned at length for strolling down the sidewalk at night–for the express reason that nobody ever just goes strolling anymore. He wrote Fahrenheit 451 shortly after that.
In the spirit of dystopian stories I hold that without assistance from a ragtag group of volunteers and supporters we find ourselves today and tomorrow choked in a litigious society without access to the roots of our free expression.
Now, what if you wrote your own folk, roots, or birthday song and decided the world should have it–free to sing, with your blessing? Our purposes, here at the Public Domain Foundry and yours, have just aligned.
At the Public Domain Foundry (PDfoundry) we work with volunteer writers and editors to create a library of new, freely adaptable, recordable, and distributable public domain resources. This means song lyrics, musical arrangements, screenplays, images, etc., found here will be free for you to legally download and adapt to your heart’s delight–without infringing on intellectual property rights.
Folk songs are a part of our culture. We need them to remain relevant to our living days and that they remain free to perform and record. To sing the blues and record shouldn’t require a licensing fee or a lawyer on retainer. No reasonable artist can say they did not learn by imitation and through refashioning what came before them. That’s why there will always be the need of drawing upon relevant material.
For the most part if you want to work with public domain material you have to reach back before 1924. While going back to the late Victorian age is fun for the visit the material is dated and the writing is rarely considered relevant today.
This site will have nothing new to offer if not for the generosity of many talented people. I hope you will feel moved to join us.
Text is King
Because this is a project that deals with public domain work (and ready access) it’s only right to ensure the catalog remains a body of text. Text formats of music (ABC), screenplays (Fountain), and others are a stable form that don’t require costly software or lock out other people from reading and using the composition submitted.
You can submit your own text work at the Inbox.
If you want to submit a pdf or sound recording or something other than text please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org