Thursday News: Happy Birthday, Harry Potter, active surrender, and the mystery of kissing
“Happy Birthday” is public domain, former owner Warner/Chapell to pay $14M – A settlement has been reached in the lawsuit against music publisher Warner/Chappell, which had claimed copyright to the song “Happy Birthday,” and had been collecting royalties for decades. As part of the settlement, the song is now unquestionably in the public domain, and Warner/Chappell must pay out $14 million to two groups of licensees, those who paid for use before 2009, and those who paid for use after 2009. Those who paid after 2009 can get their entire licensing fee back. This case, like the Sherlock Holmes case, is indicative of how big the problem of “bogus copyright” can be.
The settlement is a result of a lawsuit originally filed in 2013 by filmmaker Jennifer Nelson, who challenged the “Happy Birthday” copyright. “Happy Birthday” has the same melody as “Good Morning to You,” a children’s song dating to the 19th Century. But despite the song’s murky early history, music publisher Warner/Chappell has stuck to its story that the song was copyrighted in 1935, and a royalty had to be paid for any public use of it—until now. . . .
Warner/Chappell has been collecting an estimated $2 million annually from people who use the “Happy Birthday” song, mainly in creative works like movies and television shows. For makers of independent documentaries like Nelson, the several thousand dollars charged can be a significant expense. The makers of acclaimed 1990s documentary Hoop Dreams famously paid $5,000 to show a scene where the family of one of its main subjects sang the “Happy Birthday” song. – Ars Technica
Do we need a new Harry Potter book? A debate that would impress Dumbledore. – So I’m sure you all are surprised that the “Cursed Child” screenplay is going to be published as Harry Potter book number eight. Especially since the news is everywhere. This debate between Andrea Romano and Peter Allen Clark is pretty amusing, actually. Romano begins by basically saying that Rowling can do whatever she wants, knowing her loyal fans will do their part:
Peter: I disagree. Her status only means that she should take greater care of what she releases into the world. Let’s be clear: This is not a new book. This is an adaptation of a stage play. Not even that. It’s just the script. This is not a full-fledged return to the wizarding world. This is dialogue. Nothing against theater, but it does limit the story one wants to tell. Live theater doesn’t really allow for many, say, spells, creatures, potion effects or any of the many, many outlandish things that happen in HP’s world.
I was moderately fine with Rowling having wizards treading the boards, even though it means she lied about being down with the series. I thought it was like a little spinoff experiment, but unveiling it as ‘the eighth Harry Potter’ book just seems very tacky.
As they say in every Spider Man reboot, “With great power, comes great responsibility.” Rowling should learn by Uncle Ben’s words and treat her extremely influential position with great care. That does not include just throwing out a book just because, ‘Hey, I’ve wrote a play. Might as well make it another book!’ ¯\_(?)_/¯ Do you know what happened to Uncle Ben when Peter Parker ignored him, Andrea? He died. J. K. Rowling is killing Uncle Ben. – Mashable
The Paradox of Active Surrender: Jeanette Winterson on How Learning to Understand Art Transforms Us – An interesting meditation on Winterson’s theory of “active surrender,” in which interacting with a work of art (Winterson focuses on visual art, but I think the theory can be applied to books, too), is a process of intentionally removing the barriers between the individual and the work, be they pre-judgments and assumptions, resistance, knee-jerk emotional responses, etc., in order to open oneself up to understanding the work. I think there may be assumptions about the universality of meaning here that need to be examined, along with the burden this places on the audience, but the idea of working to understand art, at enjoying what it has to offer, is interesting, I think.
I do not believe that art (all art) and beauty are ever separate, nor do I believe that either art or beauty are optional in a sane society. That puts me on the side of what Harold Bloom calls “the ecstasy of the privileged moment.” Art, all art, as insight, as rapture, as transformation, as joy. Unlike Harold Bloom, I really believe that human beings can be taught to love what they do not love already and that the privileged moment exists for all of us, if we let it. Letting art is the paradox of active surrender. I have to work for art if I want art to work on me. – Brain Pickings
Ask Smithsonian: Why Do We Kiss? – Although kissing is likely “encoded in our genes,” and not innately “romantic,” its true purposes are still not known. This article on the state of the research is interesting (Wlodarsky, quoted below, is an Oxford researcher working on the topic), although there are a few eyebrow-raising references to the differences between “heterosexual” and “homosexual” kissing. Wut? If kissing is a biological imperative connected to mating — as the researchers believe — why would it be so different, depending on the gender of the person one is attracted to?
But the reason for kissing is still mostly a mystery, even to scientists who have spent decades studying the behavior. It’s not possible to say which is the overriding factor: that people kiss because of a psychological attraction, or because of a subconscious urge to mate with the chosen kiss-ee. Most likely, it’s a combination of the two. “You can’t have psychology without a biological brain,” says Rafael Wlodarski, who has devoted much of his career to philematology—the science of kissing. . . .
Not every culture is down with the full-on mouth kissing enlivened by a wandering tongue. That seems to be a modern, and Western, convention, perhaps from the last 2,000 years, says Wlodarski. A study published in 2015 found that less than half of the cultures surveyed engage in romantic, sexual kissing. – Smithsonian Magazine