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Ear to the Ground

‘Happy Birthday to You’ Copyright ‘Owners’ Finally Being Sued for Millions

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Posted on Jul 29, 2014

The birthday song has been in the public domain for decades, but somehow Warner/Chappell Music has gotten away with collecting hundreds of millions in royalties every time it was performed; the richest Americans are mostly inheriting their wealth; meanwhile, although science will make it possible to cryogenically freeze ourselves “until a future age,” one writer questions whether that’s something we’d actually want. These discoveries and more below.

Lawsuit: ‘Happy Birthday’ Is Not in Copyright, and Warner Owes the World Hundreds of Millions for Improperly Collected Royalties
Copyright scholars have long been pretty certain that “Happy Birthday to You” is in the public domain, despite the fact that Warner/Chappell claims copyright on it and charges impressive licensing fees to use it in public performances. Those fees, however, are much lower than a copyright lawsuit would be, so everyone shrugs and pays them. Until now.

Director of Israeli Aerospace Institute Conducts Campaign Disabling My Facebook Account
You are reading the words of a dangerous man.  A very dangerous man.  Or so the Israeli pro-war propaganda machine believes.

Time Capsule: But What Do We Do About the Arabs? (Fortune, 1967)
The strategic importance of the Middle East to the world’s industrial nations often gets overlooked in close-in debate over the Israeli-Arab war. In the first three articles of this issue FORTUNE assesses the high stakes involved in terms of people, geography, and-by no means least-oil.

America’s Wealthiest Are Increasingly ‘Earning’ Their Fortunes by Inheriting Them
In reality, most of America’s poor work hard, often in two or more jobs.In a new Pew poll, more than three quarters of self-described conservatives believe “poor people have it easy because they can get government benefits without doing anything.”

The Newsonomics of How and Why
When people talk about explanatory journalism, the focus is on new players like Vox and FiveThirtyEight, or on giants like the Times and the Post. But can connecting the dots trickle down to the local level?

Science Is Changing What It Means to Be Dead
If you could freeze yourself until a future age, are you sure you’d want to?

Arendt: Born in Conflict, Israel Will Degenerate into Sparta, and American Jews Will Need to Back Away
Here are some prophetic excerpts from two essays of Hannah Arendt’s, collected in The Jewish Writings (2007).

Urban Jungle a Tough Challenge for Google’s Autonomous Cars
It may be decades before autonomous vehicles can reliably handle the real world, experts say.

A Graphic Photo Spurs Reflection
In late May, photographs from a remote Indian village of two teenage cousins hanged from a mango tree spread rapidly and widely online, focusing the world’s attention on the problem of gang rape in India.

Shift in Opinion Over Boycott of Israel
The academic boycott of Israel (“Unity amid divisions”, Features, 17 July) is a boycott of institutions not individuals, and there has been a tidal shift of opinion in favour of a boycott – this week, a fourth U.S. academic association voted to support it.

How Does SodaStream Treat Its Palestinian Workers When the Media Isn’t Looking?
According to Palestinian workers at the West Bank factory, they were provided with meager and unsuitable food at the end of a day of fasting; those who complained were fired immediately. SodaStream: ‘The termination process was done legally’

The Silent Spotify Album ‘Sleepify’ Made $20,000 in Royalties
You remember Vulfpeck, right? That’d be the Los Angeles funk band made internet-famous for releasing a record on Spotify consisting entirely of silence, accompanied by the instruction that it was to be listened to while sleeping: put the thing on repeat and head to bed.

Goodbye Gayborhood: Study Finds Gay Neighbourhoods ‘Straightening’
New research finds that traditionally gay neighbourhoods are becoming increasingly “straight” places, and could be at risk of losing their distinct cultural identity.

On a regular basis, Truthdig brings you the news items and odds and ends that have found their way to Larry Gross, director of the USC Annenberg School for Communication.

A specialist in media and culture, art and communication, visual communication and media portrayals of minorities, Gross helped found the field of gay and lesbian studies.

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