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Happy Birthday to Everyone! "Happy Birthday" Finally Enters Public Domain

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If you're a movie or television character, you know that singing "Happy Birthday" at a party is an expensive extravagance. While there are easy workarounds, like singing "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" or making up a new song entirely, it's really just not the same as the old familiar tune. Luckily, characters will soon be able to sing the real thing, thanks to a federal ruling in Los Angeles.

On Tuesday, federal Judge George H. King ruled that Warner/Chappell Music, the group that has been raking in an estimated $2 million a year from "Happy Birthday," never really had ownership of the copyright. Warner has been charging for royalties on the song since 1988, when the company purchased Birch Tree Group, the successor to the Clayton F. Summy Co., which owned the original copyright.

Mildred and Patty Hill, creators of the original "Good Morning to All" song on which "Happy Birthday" is based, assigned their rights to their publisher, Clayton F. Summy. While the song shares the same tune and arrangement as "Happy Birthday," the lyrics are different. "Good Morning to All" has already entered the public domain, but Warner/Chappell claimed that "Happy Birthday" was still under their ownership, thanks to a copyright claim that was filed by Summy in 1935. Over the years, there has been a lot of squabbling amongst lawyers about whether "Happy Birthday" was really written by the Hill sisters, if they had abandoned their rights, and/or if the song was invented by the public. 

In yesterday's ruling, Judge King determined that Warner/Chappell only has the copyright for the arrangement of the music and not the actual tune or lyrics. As a result, the well-known song can finally enter the public domain, making it free for the public to use. 

"'Happy Birthday' is finally free after 80 years," said Randall Newman, one of the plaintiffs' attorneys in the suit.

Finally, television and movie characters can sing the song the rest of us have been singing for over 100 years.

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What’s the Difference Between Prison and Jail?
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Many people use the terms jail and prison interchangeably, and while both terms refer to areas where people are held, there's a substantial difference between the two methods of incarceration. Where a person who is accused of a crime is held, and for how long, is a factor in determining the difference between the two—and whether a person is held in a jail or a prison is largely determined by the severity of the crime they have committed.

A jail (or, for our British friends, a gaol) refers to a small, temporary holding facility—run by local governments and supervised by county sheriff departments—that is designed to detain recently arrested people who have committed a minor offense or misdemeanor. A person can also be held in jail for an extended period of time if the sentence for their offense is less than a year. There are currently 3163 local jail facilities in the United States.

A jail is different from the similarly temporary “lockup”—sort of like “pre-jail”—which is located in local police departments and holds offenders unable to post bail, people arrested for public drunkenness who are kept until they are sober, or, most importantly, offenders waiting to be processed into the jail system.

A prison, on the other hand, is usually a large state- or federal-run facility meant to house people convicted of a serious crime or felony, and whose sentences for those crimes surpass 365 days. A prison could also be called a “penitentiary,” among other names.

To be put in a state prison, a person must be convicted of breaking a state law. To be put in a federal prison, a person must be convicted of breaking federal law. Basic amenities in a prison are more extensive than in a jail because, obviously, an inmate is likely to spend more than a year of his or her life confined inside a prison. As of 2012, there were 4575 operating prisons in the U.S.—the most in the world. The country with the second highest number of operating prisons is Russia, which has just 1029 facilities.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Country Time Is Paying Off Fines on Kids' Lemonade Stands
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A summer staple has come under threat. “The Man” is cracking down on makeshift lemonade stands across the country and busting kids without business permits. Thankfully, one beverage maker is here to help.

As CNN reports, Country Time—known for its powdered lemonade mix—has started a legal fund to help pay off the fines and permit fees incurred by little lemonade hucksters. The company has vowed to cover fees of up to $300 for each business permit bought this year, as well as fines on lemonade stands that were shut down in 2017 and 2018.

The initiative, dubbed Legal-Ade, was reportedly inspired by an incident that occurred in Denver just last week in which two brothers who were selling lemonade for charity were forced to close down shop because they didn’t have a permit. In recent years, similar cases have been reported in Texas, Maryland, Iowa, Georgia, and more. Some fines have climbed as high as $500.

“When we saw these stories about lemonade stands being shut down for legal reasons, we thought it had to be an urban myth,” Adam Butler, an executive at Kraft Heinz, which owns Country Time, told CNN. “A very real response seemed the best way to shine a light on the issue."

The company posted a playful advertisement on YouTube showing a group of hard-nosed lawyers crossing their arms and cracking their knuckles behind a child’s lemonade stand. “Entrepreneurship? Good work habits? Good old-fashioned fun? Shut down because of old, arcane, but very real laws,” declares a voice in the video. “Tastes like justice,” one man in a suit says after downing his lemonade and crushing the plastic cup in one fist.

The company says it’s prepared to cover up to $60,000 in fees. To apply for some lemonade relief, head to Country Time’s website and upload a scanned copy of your child’s fine or permit receipt.

[h/t CNN]

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