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Happy Birthday Is Finally Public Domain, China’s Official Linux Distro…[Tech News Digest]

Justin Pot 24-09-2015

The song “Happy Birthday” finally enters the public domain, a look at the Linux distro the Chinese government is hoping to replace Windows with, people are watching fewer season premiers this year, Pebble’s got an attractive new watch, and a cat that is absolutely up to no good.


Happy Birthday Is Now Public Domain

Have you ever wondered why TV and movie characters go out of their way to avoid singing “Happy Birthday”? It’s because the song, despite its public domain melody and culturally omnipresent lyrics, weren’t free to use. Warner Music owned the rights, and they charged everyone for the right to use them. Even restaurants avoided singing the song, for fear of a lawsuit.

But no more! U.S. District Judge George H. King has ruled that the song is in the public domain, meaning everyone is free to sing it without sending a check to Warner Music.

You can read more about this decision at the Washington Post, and you totally should. The case involves a former X-Games participant finding a songbook from 1922 that includes the song with no copyright information, and a lot more legal details we can’t summarize here.

What we can do, legally, is print the lyrics to Happy Birthday, without fear of reprisal:


Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday dear reader
Happy birthday to you!

Seriously, how was that not public domain? Crazy. Perhaps the only sad thing about this entire situation is that brilliant workarounds like this aren’t necessary anymore.

The Operating System China Wants to Replace Windows

Europe isn’t exactly thrilled about big American Internet companies What Is GAFA? Why The EU Doesn't Love Large American Internet Companies GAFA is an acronym for Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon — the 4 most powerful American technology companies. Expect to hear it more often. Read More ; turns out, neither is China. In an attempt to lessen the power of Microsoft, who makes the operating system that powers the vast majority of humanity’s personal computers, the Chinese government is pushing their own operating system: NeoKylin. Quartz tried the OS out, and you can see what they found here:

Aesthetically there’s a real Windows XP vibe, but the internals are apparently Linux-based. It uses the yum package manager An A-Z of Linux - 40 Essential Commands You Should Know Linux is the oft-ignored third wheel to Windows and Mac. Yes, over the past decade, the open source operating system has gained a lot of traction, but it’s still a far cry from being considered... Read More , suggesting that it’s Fedora-based, but all the repositories familiar to Fedora users are blocked. Even if you get software installed, it might not run: Chrome outright refused to run (which some people might see as a compelling feature 5 Things I Hate About Chrome Chrome, the operating system, is apparently pretty great – but Chrome, the operating system, is the worst thing that ever happened to Chrome, the browser. Read More , but I digress).

There are a few more details here, including a version of Open Office skinned to more closely resemble Microsoft Office, but you should really read the Quartz piece to get the full story. It’s worthwhile.


People Are Watching Less TV

It’s a big week for American television companies, with a bunch of season premiers, but you’re probably too busy watching Netflix to notice. At least, that’s what really low TV ratings this week suggest, according to Business Insider.

The number of people between 18 and 24 watching TV this week is down 20 per cent against last year, which advertisers won’t be thrilled about. To make up the different, TV channels have been airing more commercials – which probably won’t help with the ratings much.

And on the cycle goes, with one exception: sports and live events. As our cord cutting cost guide shows Considering Canceling Cable? The True Cost of Cutting the Cord When you add everything up, do you really save money by cutting the cord? We do the math involved with cancelling cable in favor of Internet services. Read More , these are the one thing you can’t really get online. So don’t be surprised if TV ends up doing more things live.


Pebble’s New Watch Looks Pretty Nice

Remember Pebble, the Kickstarter project that made smart watches before Apple grabbed everyone’s attention? They announced a new watch yesterday.

Cards on the table: I think the Apple Watch is hideous. Not attractive at all. I wear a mechanical watch – it tells me the time, and I don’t have to worry about batteries or turning the screen on. I’m not sure I’d ever want a smart watch.

But this Pebble thing? I could see owning it. It looks great, and e-ink means no waiting for the screen – it’s just always on. More importantly, it’s round, which means I don’t cringe upon seeing it.



More cards on the table: I thought the iPad was a terrible idea that no one would buy, and until just a few months ago I did not own a smartphone Why This Technology Blogger Does Not Own a Smartphone [Opinion] "Do you have a smartphone yet?" It's a question my friends ask often, and it's a reasonable one to ask. I make my entire living writing about technology, explaining how to use software and interviewing... Read More . I’m not a pundit you should listen to, at all, when it comes to technology predictions or hardware recommendation, and I haven’t done a lot of research here.

But man: this new Pebble Watch looks nice. I won’t buy it, but it looks nice.

And Finally, This Cat Is Planning Something. I Just Know It.

Cats can’t be trusted; this one doubly so.

I’ll never get sick of cat videos, but this is my favorite in a while: the editing just gets me every time. Watching cat videos is good for you Watching Cat Videos Is Good For You, Googling Fast Food Is Bad, & More... [Tech News Digest] Watching cat videos for fun and profit, Googling the calories in fast food, running encrypted Bing searches, exploring Ello on iOS, and the jealous cat who hates video games. Read More , too, so the dozen times I watched it before writing this article was time well spent.

Your Thoughts On Today’s Tech News

So: how will you use your new Happy Birthday freedom? Will you give China’s Linux distro a spin? Do you still watch TV on TV, or do you prefer watching TV on Netflix? Would you get a Pebble? And what evil plans do you think the cats have for us, once we let our guard down?

Related topics: Copyright, Fedora, Linux Distro, Smartwatch, Television.

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  1. Anonymous
    September 26, 2015 at 11:45 am

    "Happy Birthday" isn't technically public domain (yet?). Technically, it's an orphaned work. The court didn't decide that it's public domain, just that Warner/Chappell's copyright claim isn't valid.

    Being an orphaned work doesn't mean that it's out of copyright, just that nobody is claiming copyright on it. It's possible someone does hold a copyright on it (it was possible that Warner/Chappell did, because copyright terms are WAAAAAAAAAAAAY too long, which means it's possible there is a legitimate copyright holder still) but until someone tries to claim a copyright on it (and can produce some evidence supporting their claim - worth noting is that Warner had to go to the British Museum for a copy of the registration they claimed granted them copyright, so it's not like that evidence is easy to find) you can use it and you won't owe anybody anything.

    So not the same as public domain. But for now, close enough.