Archival BFD: Happy Birthday Case

If you haven’t heard, a judge in the 9th Circuit has ruled that Happy Birthday, or at least the words were not transferred to the licensing company, Warner/Chappell and that the authorship of the lyrics to Happy Birthday is in question. This is a BFD in regards to copy right and could signal a shift in how copyright claims for early works are handled or it could just mean that the words for Happy Birthday will be on every major TV show in a few months. Several outlets are reporting that the lyrics are now in the public domain, but that’s not exactly what was in the judge’s opinion. Judge King suggest in his opinion that the Hill sisters who authored the original “Good Morning” to you song that Happy Birthday was based off up never asserted their copyright to the lyrics only a piano arrangement. I admit to splitting hairs here, but it’s good to be cautious with copyright. I’m also still searching for the opinion and will write a new post once I find it. I should mention this case is far from over, and this is just a district judge’s ruling. It’ll have a good year a more to work its way through the federal judicial system.

Here’s a few write ups on the case:

Managing Billions Lines of Code – Archivist Take Note

Google developers logoA piece posted today at Wired by Cade Metz discusses the code repository used by Google to manage the code for all their services, app’s etc. Metz is discussing comments by Google’s Rachel Potvin made at a Silcon Valley engineering conference. According to Potvin and discussed at length by Metz, Google keeps all of of its code for it’s services in one central repository accessible by its 25,000 engineers. The amount of code is staggering. Roughly two billion lines of it is managed, tracked and made accessible through Google’s home-grown repository system known as Piper.

For some archivist, this information is neat and ultimately not relevant to what we do. I insist that in the post-custodial world we live in, examining how massive large-scale software is develop is something to take note of. The software itself may not be considered a record, though that’s up for debate, the interactions between developers, bot, and testers generate records many of which are tracked by version control software like Piper. The question we have to ask ourselves is what should we do with these records, how do we capture them, how does a scenario like a large software code repository translate to other instances where records can be manipulated by large groups of users? I can’t answer any of these, but it’s time to pay attention.