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ange on 01/11/2013 at 12:00PM

The New Happy Birthday Song Contest

Artwork by Greg Harrison

The Free Music Archive wants to wish Creative Commons a Happy Birthday with a song. But there's a problem. Although "Happy Birthday To You" is the most recognized song in the English language and its origins can be traced back to 1893, it remains under copyright protection in the United States until 2030. It can cost independent filmmakers $10,000 to clear the song for their films, and this is a major stumbling block hindering the creation of new works of art.

Intro by Ken Freedman | Judges | Official Rules | Prize 
Submit Your Song | View Entries | Video: Birthday Song Alternatives 

While this has made for many inspiring creative alternatives, it's time to dethrone that old ditty and create a new national repository of alternate Birthday song compositions. All submissions will be licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license so that they may be freely incorporated into new works of art as long as the artist and the Free Music Archive are properly attributed. 


  1. Songs shall be original "Birthday Song" compositions comprised of music that you create yourself, material that's in the public domain, or other material that you have express permission to use.
  2. Entries must be in the form of an audio recording and in MP3 format, stereo bitrate 192kbps or higher (256kbps preferred).
  3. Entries must be submitted using our form here.

Please see our Official Rules. 


The top three winners according to our incredible panel of judges will be all dressed up and distributed to the most powerful media companies on earth with colorful, Ross Perot-style financial incentive charts encouraging the recipients to better their bottom line by using one of these shiny new Happy Birthday replacement tracks.  WFMU will organize and pay for the digital and physical mailings of the three winning tracks to the luckiest people on earth including movie studios, theater troupes, restaurant chains, sports leagues, scouting associations, youth groups, minor league baseball teams, major league Jai Alai squads, and bowling alleys. We’ll also send the tracks to music journalists, bloggers and radio stations to help get the word out and cement the new songs into the cultural subconscious.

The CDs will be accompanied by a letter explaining that "Happy Birthday To You" is under strict copyright protection, and encouraging the recipient to use the CD under the terms of Creative Commons Attribution. Together, this is our best shot at dethroning "Happy Birthday To You" at long last.


Our top notch panel of judges includes Maralie Armstrong (AS220), Jonathan Coulton (musician/internet superstar), Ira Kaplan (Yo La Tengo), Frannie Kelley (NPR Music), Lawrence Lessig (Harvard Law School) and Greg Saunier (Deerhoof). They will be judging together based on originality, creativity, artistic merit, adherence to the "Birthday Song" theme, and general musical appeal.


Can We Replace the “Happy Birthday” Song? (Slate)
The Quest for a Copyright-Free Happy Birthday (Laughing Squid)
Write the Next ‘Happy Birthday!’ WFMU’s Free Music Archive’s Challenge to Songwriters (Sonic Scoop)
It's Time For A New, Copyright-Free Happy Birthday Song, So Help Write One (TechDirt)
Happy Birthday Alternatives in Film & Television (World's Best Ever)


On the Creative Commons Birthday Site, the Free Music Archive's Jason Sigal tells the story of how Chris Zabriskie started licensing his music under CC-BY and, in the process, opened new professional doors in his music career.


In December 2002, Creative Commons released its first set of copyright licenses for free to the public. In the years following the initial release, Creative Commons and its licenses have grown at an exponential rate around the world. The licenses have been further improved and ported to over 50 jurisdictions. With some major platforms adopting the Creative Commons licenses and version 4.0 of the licenses around the corner, this anniversary is the perfect opportunity to celebrate the amazing material that is released under Creative Commons Licenses.


This contest is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.



Kidkraft Kitchen on 10/17/14 at 08:21AM
interesting post
katya-oddio on 07/29/15 at 05:12PM
Things are changing in the birthday song case!
istvan23 on 03/31/16 at 03:45PM
Nem a legjobb zene letletoltve
Meg adtam együttesek nevét
És kiirta hogy nem ismeri
Gobuers on 07/14/17 at 11:00AM
Great prize im impressive
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