June 21, 2005 | By Derek Slater

Happy Birthday, Free Culture-Style

After only one year, the international student movement FreeCulture.org is already a smashing success. Founded by the Swarthmore students who fought to keep the Diebold e-voting memos online, the organization has expanded into nine chapters across the country with more to come. They've monster mashed-up the dead, tried to rescue orphans, and helped save future iPods from the Induce Act.

Creative Commons wanted to celebrate FreeCulture.org's first year in a form fitting of remix culture, so it brought together "some of the leaders of the free world" (the EFF staff, Mitch Kapor, Dan Gillmor, Brian Behlendorf, Ian Clarke, Jimmy Wales, Brewster Kahle, and Gigi Sohn) to sing "Happy Birthday."

In doing so, however, Creative Commons had to jump through a number of licensing hoops. Warner Chappell Music owns the rights to the song's lyrics and initially "refused to grant a license." Eventually CC got one, but with several conditions:

"...[C]learing rights to use music, under our current system of copyright is very complex. You need to clear every element you use. So in this recording, Warner's owns the lyrics and the composition and we have a limited license to use those & make them available to you for your personal use. The loops and sounds are owned by a loop distributor and licensed to us under a limited license that means we can't make it available to you to remix."

Creative Commons can make the tune available for download, so it has. But it has also posted a story illustrating just how difficult it is to share this particular bit of our culture.

Download it here, and while you're at it, make a donation to support FreeCulture.org and the fight for a free(er) culture.


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