When I was kid, we all sang 'Happy Birthday' to each other constantly - loudly, occasionally with mildly offensive alternate lyrics, and mostly without a care in the world. As I grew older, I noticed how in movies, TV shows, and restaurants, they never mentioned this song that was such an ubiquitous presence in all our lives. Then someone told me the horrible truth: that some corporation owned 'Happy Birthday' and you were supposed to pay every time you sang it. My reaction could be summed up thusly:
"Wait, someone owns 'Happy Birthday'? That's crazy."
This was my introduction to copyright law. I mean, I knew you weren't supposed to copy other people's work or writing, but I had always been taught it was a moral issue, akin to lying. I also knew that people were due credit for their own creations and ideas, as well as any rewards or accolades their work brought - once again, this seemed fair and just (and still does). But for some corporation to own and restrict and make money off 'Happy Birthday' seemed, well, kind of underhanded. (I was young, remember, and had not studied corporate history.) To me, it seemed obvious that these people were using the law against its intended use (to credit and reward creators) and unfairly withholding a piece of our shared culture for their own profit. I think a healthy chunk of my (now very pronounced) skepticism about the goodness of our corporate overlords and the fairness of our copyright system can be traced to this moment.
Anyway, someone is finally taking them on: http://boingboing.net/2013/06/13/lawsuit-happy-birthday-is.html http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2014/02/happy-birthday-copyright-defense-those-words-and-text-are-ours/
I sure hope they win.