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HOLLYWOOD — In September, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that Warner/ Chappell Music had never acquired a valid copyright for the song “Happy Birthday.” The melody was composed in 1893 by schoolteacher Patty Smith Hill and her sister Mildred. In 1935, the Summy Company registered a copyright for the lyrics. In 1988, the copyright, which was supposed to last until 2030, was bought by Warner/Chappell for an estimated $5 million. Movie companies and TV shows using the song had to pay from $700 to $5,000 for its use. To date it’s amassed an estimated $50 million. Almost every talk- and magazine show sang the song after the ruling because they didn’t have to pay a royalty.

But hold on … Warner/Chappell is appealing the ruling, and in eight months it could be overturned. This verdict could trigger a meaningful review for production companies that own other copyrights on registrations made decades ago, before recordkeeping was computerized. Stay tuned, there’s a lot riding on this.

CBS has a black eye today. The network has refused to run ads for the Robert Redford/Cate Blanchard film “Truth.” Redford plays Dan Rather, who was fired by CBS for the “60 Minutes II” story that questioned President George W. Bush’s Vietnam Warera commitment to serve in the Texas Air National Guard based on fake documents.

CBS would “Rather” it just go away to the tune of $l million in ad revenue.

“Hustler” publisher Larry Flint says “Playboy” publisher Hugh Hefner is “getting old, but I didn’t know he’s lost his mind!” His comments were over Hefner’s decision to no longer feature totally nude photos in “Playboy.” He adds, “How can you take the most important feature of your magazine and drop it … what it became famous for?” He asserts “Playboy” is trying to be more like Maxim, GQ and Esquire. At least we’ll finally learn if the claim that men only buy “Playboy” for the stories is true.

Laverne Cox, the first Emmy-nominated transgender actress, will play Frank-N- Furter in the two-hour Fox TV reboot of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” The role created, both on stage and in the film, by Tim Curry has always been played men. “Rocky Horror” airs later in 2016, following the Jan. 31 live reboot of “Grease.” Laverne Cox also will appear in the CBS pilot “Doubt” as a transgender attorney, a role especially created for her.

Now that Daniel Craig is stepping down as 007, he’ll leave his James Bond image and signature martini behind. Craig will head off-Broadway to star in “Othello,” with David Oyelowo. But the Bond persona will be hard to forget as audiences watch this violent Shakespeare play and are “shaken not stirred”! !

© 2015 by King Features Syndicate

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