In what DC executives are calling "sweet, sweet revenge," DC Comics has filed suit against the Siegel estate for unauthorized performance of the song Happy Birthday to You.
The family of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel has been making headlines for news for their long-running court case against DC Comics over the rights to Superman, who was created by Siegel and Joe Shuster in 1938. However, three years earlier, in 1935, a plan was being set into motion that would see DC able to enact revenge on the Siegels nearly 80 years later.
Mildred and Patty Hill, two sisters from Kentucky, composed the melody to Happy Birthday in 1868. The song, originally entitled Good Morning to All, was first published in 1893. However, it was in 1935, three years before Superman was created, that the music publisher Clayton F. Summy Company, with the help of another Hill sister, Jenny Hill, copyrighted Happy Birthday, to which the lyrics had been changed over the years. John F. Sengstack, purchased the Clayton F. Summy Company and, in the 1970s, renamed it Birch Tree Ltd. In 1998, AOL Time Warner purchased Birch Tree and renamed it Summy-Birchard Music. DC Comics is a subsidiary of AOL Time Warner.
The news of the lawsuit comes on what would have been the 98th birthday of Jerry Siegel, who was born on October 17, 1914, an irony which is not lost on this reporter. "When we learned that it was Jerry's birthday, we did a little research," said an elated Dan Didio. "It turns out that the Siegel family sang Happy Birthday to Jerry over 50 times, each time on this same day, October 17th. On other days throughout the year, they would sometimes sing it to other family members. It's like some bizarre ritual. All of these performances, were, of course, unauthorized. Thank god we had the foresight to own the copyright to this song. Could you imagine if people were able to enjoy something created in the nineteenth century without the approval and oversight of a giant corporation?!"
"We are stunned and amazed by this development," said Siegel family lawyer Marc Toberoff. "DC can't even keep their own continuity organized for more than a decade, but they planned ahead 80 years, before Superman was even created, just for revenge."
"I'm really pleased with myself," remarked Didio. "Who knew I was this smart?"