Singing Happy Birthday
I’ve done it. You’ve done it. Anyone with an office job has found themselves roped into an embarrassing-for-all rendition of the world’s most recognized song. How could such an innocent celebration of a loved one’s birthday be illegal?
It all started in 1935, when “Happy Birthday to You” was copyrighted by the Birch Tree Group Limited. In 1988, a division of the Warner Music Group acquired Birch Tree and began collecting around $5,000 a day in licensing fees for the song.
This is why you’ll so rarely hear complete versions of “Happy Birthday” in movies or TV shows. Most productions will either cut the song so short that it doesn’t violate copyright, or simply substitute a public-domain option like “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow”.
No matter how you slice it, under current copyright rules, every time you sing “Happy Birthday to You” in public, you’re breaking the law.
Throwing Out An Old Tenant’s Junk Mail
It sucks when people don’t update their contact info after they move and you wind up coming home every day to an overflowing mailbox full of junk that doesn’t belong to you. Sure, the first few times, you’ll be a Good Samaritan and politely label each pre-approved credit card offer or coupon book “return to sender” and hope that the mailman takes it back. But when junk keeps piling up in your mailbox, the temptation to just throw it away also mounts.
Even though it’s not your fault and you’re the one being inconvenienced by it, it’s a federal crime to open, tamper with or destroy someone else’s mail. You probably won’t get caught, but considering the penalty could be as much as a $250,000 fine and a five-year stint in a federal prison, you’re probably better off calling the post office to tell them that the irresponsible jerk who forgot to update their info doesn’t in fact live at your house anymore.
Owning a Sharpie
Sharpies are a staple of every office supply closet. Everyone’s used a Sharpie, whether to label a moving box, make an impromptu sign, or just because they love that one-of-a-kind smell. Pretty innocuous right?
As far as the government’s concerned, that Sharpie in your hand is a graffiti tool and you don’t want to get caught with one in a public place. And whatever you do, don’t sell or give a Sharpie to a minor, cause they’re not allowed to have one under any circumstances. We know this sounds like someone’s idea of a joke, but the 13-year-old Oklahoma student who was arrested for having a Sharpie at school in 2010 probably wasn’t laughing when the cops took him to a juvenile detention facility for accidentally marking up his desk when his Sharpie bled through the paper he was writing on.