$$$$: Happy Birthday to You!
There’s hardly a more “generic” song in America than “Happy Birthday to You,” but to this day (until a judge renders a decision in a pending case), Warner/Chappel Music is still trying to make big dollars off of the 16-word ditty (15 original words plus a user-supplied 16th). Its original copyright should have expired, at the latest, in 1921, but amendments to the law and technicalities in interpretation (e.g., did the copyright cover all public uses or just piano arrangements?) bring Warner at least $2 million a year in fees. A federal judge in California is expected to rule soon on whether the song is in fact uncopyrightably “generic” — 125 years after the Hill sisters (Mildred and Patty) composed it. [CBS News, 3-27-2015]
“The ancient art of yoga is supposed to offer a path to inner peace,” wrote the Wall Street Journal in February — before launching into a report on how many yoga classes these days are so crowded that inner peace-seekers are more likely than ever either to seethe throughout their session — or to openly confront floor-hoggers. Explained one coach, “People who are practicing yoga want Zen; they don’t already have it.” [Wall Street Journal, 2-16-2015]
Timely Information: (1) Joseph Forren, 21, with a .172 blood alcohol level, plowed into a pickup truck in April in Trumbull, Connecticut (though with no serious injuries). Police said Forren’s cellphone on the seat still displayed a current text message, “Don’t drink and drive … Dad.” (2) According to police records released in April, Mila Dago (now 24 and awaiting trial for DUI manslaughter) was trading sarcastic texts with her ex-boyfriend that night in August 2013 while barhopping (later, registering .178 blood alcohol), and as she ran a red light, smashed into a pickup truck, injuring herself badly and her friend in the passenger seat fatally. According to the police report, her last text to the ex- boyfriend (three minutes earlier) was “Driving drunk woo … I’ll be dead thanks to you.” [Connecticut Post (Bridgeport), 4-27-2015] [Miami Herald, 4-30-2015]
Additional Ironies: (1) The Indian Journal of Dermatology announced in April that it was withdrawing a recent scientific paper by a dentist in Kerala state, “Development of a Guideline to Approach Plagiarism in Indian Scenarios,” because parts of the article had been plagiarized from a student dissertation. (2) Low voter turnout in non-presidential election years is increasingly problematic in easily distracted Los Angeles, but the issue was specifically addressed by campaigners in the March 3 city council elections — which, of course, only about 9 percent of registered voters cast ballots in. [NPR, 4-2-2015] [LA Weekly, 3-4-2015]
In New York City, someone can be fired for being “too nice.” Doorman Ralph Body, 41, was dismissed from his job at an upscale New York City apartment building because he did too many favors for tenants, according to an April New York Post report. Body said he “gave his life” to the residents at the “27 on 27th” tower in Queens, but “upper management” thought such extra kindnesses violated building policy and ordered his dismissal despite a tenant petition. [New York Post, 4-5-2015]
When the chief auditor for Hartford, Connecticut, finally got around to checking the finances of the police shooting range recently, he found that the range supervisor had bought 485,000 bullets per year, but was using only 180,000 — and had no paperwork on where the other bullets went. (In one instance, the supervisor acknowledged having bought 94,500 rounds of .45-caliber ammo two years after the department had stopped using .45s and switched to .40-caliber weapons — but his story was that he needed .45-caliber bullets so he could trade them for .40s.) [Hartford Courant, 5-2-2015]
New World Order
Millions of sports fans “draft” their own fantasy sports teams — and even the bass-fishing tournament circuit has its fantasy league, where fans select anglers good at exploiting choice spots on the lakes. In March, Alaska Dispatch News reported that, for the fourth straight year, there would be an Iditarod Fantasy League, with a “salary cap” of “$27,000” to pick seven mushers with the best chances to push their dogs to victory, with all-stars going for around $6,000 and promising rookies selling for much less. [Alaska Dispatch News, 3-6-2015]
Alfred Guercio, 54, was arrested in Burnsville, Minnesota, in March after forcibly entering a neighbor’s home and swiping a knife set that he had given the woman as a Christmas gift. He told the woman, and police, that he was taking the gift back, as he was upset that the woman was failing to appreciate it enough. [The Smoking Gun, 3-17-2015]
Fine Points of the Law
John Deere became the most recent company in America to claim that, though a buyer may have paid in full for a device, he may not actually “own” it. Deere claims that because its tractors run on sophisticated computer programs, the ostensible owner of the tractor cannot “tamper” with that software without Deere’s permission — even to repair a defect or to customize its operation. Already, traditional movie videos may come with restrictions on copying, but the Deere case, according to an April report on Wired.com, might extend the principle to machinery not traditionally subject to copyright law. [Wired.com, 4-21-2015]
The March arranged-marriage ceremony in Kanpur, India, was about to start when cousins of the bride (whose name is Lovely, daughter of Mohar Singh) commandeered center stage and demanded that groom Ram Baran answer the question, “What is 15 plus 6?” Baran answered, “17,” and in short order, Lovely and her family began to drift out of the room, and the marriage was off. Eventually, according to a Times of India report, the families settled the fiasco amicably, with all gifts returned. [Times of India, 3-13-2015]
Enjoy the long weekend if you’re observing the Memorial Day Weekend. Remember the Fallen. Otherwise have a good, safe weekend!