Public Birthdays May Soon Get Less Creative

American actress Marilyn Monroe (1926 - 1962) celebrates her birthday with cake and sparklers during the filming of 'Something's Got to Give' (directed by George Cukor), Los Angeles, California, June 1, 1962. This was Monroe's last day on the set before she was fired. (Photo by Lawrence Schiller/Polaris Communications/Getty Images)
Photo: Lawrence Schiller

Part of the fun of watching a birthday scene on television is in hearing the always-awkward replacement for the Happy Birthday song, which has been necessary for years because the traditional number is copyrighted. That may change soon, as a class-action suit started by a filmmaker doing a documentary on the song seeks to strip current copyright holder Warner/Chappell Music Group of the rights and put the song in public domain.

The plaintiff, Good Morning To You Productions Corp., filed suit after it was threatened with a $150,000 penalty for using the song without permission and wound up paying a $1,500 fee for it, Reuters reports. The filmmaker says Warner/Chappell makes $2 million annually from licensing fees. If it works, anybody will be able to use the song in any piece of art, which would eliminate the need for hilarious alternatives.

Someone helpfully compiled a few of the goofy replacement songs that have graced the airwaves over the years:

But when shows do pay for it, they often make it worthwhile: