Blue Man Group Wishes You a Monotone Happy Birthday

I went to see the Orlando Blue Man Group show last week as part of my wife’s employer’s holiday party.

Candidly, I wasn’t very enthusiastic because the local Blue Man Group commercials are kind of annoying.  However, the show was absolutely amazing.  The sounds and visuals were superb – never has HD been put to better use.  And the message, although a bit forced, was relevant in today’s (un)social media environment – human interaction, it’s a good thing.

As part of the pre-show experience, several LED boards flash messages to the audience.  Most of it is just silly stuff that you would roll your eyes at if you weren’t in the theater, but one caught my eye.  I’m paraphrasing, but it was something along the lines of:

“It’s John Doe’s birthday today.  Let’s wish him a happy birthday.  Don’t sing.  Just speak.”  And then the lyrics to Happy Birthday scrolled by while the audience dutifully spoke them in a unified, monotone voice.

While I’m sure many in the audience knew the reason for such a command, I bet that many thought it was just Blue Man Group doing their artsy Blue Man Group thing.

Here’s the secret:  They ask for the audience to speak it rather than sing it because Warner/Chappell has been claiming copyright ownership over the “Happy Birthday” song and has been collecting licensing fees from those who dare to use the tune in public!

So, artsy or not, Blue Man Group simply doesn’t want to get sued for inducing an audience to infringe copyright.

There may be a silver lining though.  Some folks have challenged Warner/Chappell’s ownership claims, and a California court may begin unraveling the issue soon.

See: http://variety.com/2013/biz/news/court-keeps-candles-lit-on-dispute-over-happy-birthday-copyright-1200703048/

Until then, don’t sing, just speak.

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