Thanks to a reader for pointing out a mistake in my article on “Happy Birthday”: the song is not, in fact, under copyright in Canada, but entered the public domain in Canada in 1985. (Warner/Chappell sent the reader a letter to this effect in 1997.) I recall being told, in law school, that the song was under copyright everywhere, but apparently this was wrong — which could be taken as further proof that you shouldn’t believe everything lawyers tell you.
To elaborate a little on the Police Squad! anecdote from the article: there’s an episode of Police Squad! where someone says “And now, let’s sing something different” and then the party guests begin to sing “Happy Birthday.” When the show was released on VHS, they didn’t want to pay to use “Happy Birthday,” so somebody got the clever and very ZAZ-esque idea to use the line “something different” as the cue for an original joke song: “Something different, oo-oo…”
When the show was released on DVD, they restored the original version of the episode, but because so many people had first encountered it on VHS, there was a lot of disappointment expressed online over the removal of the “Something Different” joke. I suppose that’s a tribute to whoever came up with that solution in the first place.