Warner Chappell Music sues people for singing Happy Birthday while washing their hands

Satire by

Music publisher Warner Chappell Music is suing people who sing “Happy Birthday To You” while washing their hands for copyright infringement, the company announced on July 24. Many people have been following CDC recommendations by singing “Happy Birthday To You” twice while washing their hands to make sure they wash for at least 20 seconds.

Some critics have pointed out that the company gave up the copyright in 2016. Additionally, copyrights only apply to commercial uses of the song, but Warner Chappell Music is still going through with the case. “This is a clear case of copyright infringement,” a Warner Chappell Music spokesperson said. “People save money by not getting sick, and they are using our song to not get sick. Therefore, it’s a commercial use.”

Many are upset with the decision, raising the concern that coronavirus cases may rise because people will no longer properly time their handwashing. “My daughter only washes her hands because she gets to sing Happy Birthday. I have no idea what we’re going to do now — please help us!” @savemefromhomeschool tweeted. “There are other methods of timing yourself, like just counting to twenty at a moderate pace,” Twitter user @overlypracticalsolutions responded. 

Not all solutions have been uncontroversial. Twitter user @christmasinjuly explained that they “just sing another song for 20 seconds. I use Let it Snow!” In response, @thegrinch tweeted “Um, Warner Chappell has that copyrighted too.”

Despite the backlash, the company believes the lawsuit is justified. “This will be a whole new source of revenue for us, and small businesses like us need to be supported during these times,” Warner Chappell Music CEO, Guy Moot said. “We’re just trying to profit off our hard work, or at least profit off the hard work other people did years ago when they wrote the song.”

Though some plan to lie about singing the song in order to avoid paying, those with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant may not be so lucky. According to Warner Chappell Music, the smart devices allow the company to hear if people are singing the song while washing their hands. “Recording audio from these devices is completely legal if you read the fine print, and Amazon and Google were happy to help us once we promised to pay them. I mean, they love spying on customers,” Moot said. “With this evidence, we anticipate that we will easily win the case.”

Editor’s Note: This article is purely satirical and fictitious. All attributions in this article are not genuine and this story should be read in the context of pure entertainment only.

Contact Io Gilman at ioyehgilman ‘at’ gmail.com.

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Io Gilman is a high schooler writing as a part of The Daily's Summer Journalism Program.