Legal Current Affairs

Summary of latest bill and acts passed or pending in 2019 in Parliament of India with their salient features and issues for Current Affairs 2019 preparation for various examinations such as UPSC, SSC, State Civil Services, CLAT, Judicial Services etc.

Lawsuit filed against the copyright of ‘Happy birthday to you’

The copyright of the most famous song of English language “Happy Birthday to You” has been challenged by a production company Good Morning To You Productions Corp. who is making a documentary about the song.

About “Happy Birthday to You” and the case:

The melody of “Happy Birthday to You” comes from the song “Good Morning to All”, which was written and composed by American siblings Patty Hill and Mildred J. Hill in 1893. The sisters created “Good Morning to All” as a song that young children would find easy to sing.

The combination of melody and lyrics in “Happy Birthday to You” first appeared in print in 1912. There were no mentions of copyright in its early appearances. The Summy Company registered for copyright in 1935, crediting authors Preston Ware Orem and Mrs. R.R. Forman.

In 1988, Warner/Chappell purchased the company owning the copyright for $25 million, with the value of “Happy Birthday” estimated at $5 million.

Based on the 1935 copyright registration, Warner claims that the United States copyright will not expire until 2030, and that unauthorized public performances of the song are technically illegal unless royalties are paid to it.

‘Good Morning To You Productions’ claims that evidence dating to 1893 helps show the song’s copyright expired around 1921.The lawsuit says Warner/Chappell claims the copyright to the song based on piano arrangements published in 1935 but that the copyright applies only to the piano arrangement and not to the melody or lyrics. The lawsuit argues that the song should be “dedicated to public use and in the public domain”. The company is seeking monetary damages and restitution of more than $5 million in licensing fees collected by Warner/Chappell Music Inc. from thousands of people and groups who’ve paid it licensing fees.

U.S. Supreme Court forbids human genes from being patented

Giving a jolt to medical and biotechnology industries, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that companies cannot patent parts of naturally-occurring human genes.

This judgment reverses three decades of patent awards by government officials. It dismisses patents held by Myriad Genetics Inc. (MGI) on an increasingly popular breast cancer test brought into the public eye recently by actress Angelina Jolie’s disclosure that she went through double mastectomy because of one of the genes involved in this case.

MGI has developed a test popular as BRAC Analysis test by using the patent of a BRCA gene it had isolated which is linked to breast and ovarian cancer. The test looks for mutations on the breast cancer predisposition gene, or BRCA. MGI sells the only BRCA gene test. Opponents of its patents say the company can use the patents to keep other researchers from working with the BRCA gene to develop other tests.

Why the court threw out MGI patent BRCA?

The court held that it was against patent rules. The court has said that laws of nature, natural phenomena and abstract ideas are not patentable. It held that a naturally occurring DNA segment is a product of nature and not patent eligible merely because it had been isolated. However, the court clarified that a synthetically created DNA, known as cDNA, could be patented.

What are the counter views?

Companies have billions of dollars of investment and years of research on the line in this case. Their advocates argue that without the ability to recoup their investment through the profits that patents bring, breakthrough scientific discoveries to combat all kinds of medical illnesses wouldn’t happen.