Planet Business

Happy Birthday copyright, the ‘diesel dupe’ and the Goldman Sachs reading list

Image of the week: Passion and politics

It probably wasn’t the most interesting conversation he has had lately, but for UK prime minister David “not going to dignify that with a comment” Cameron, there could have been worse engagements in his diary this week than a polite, respectful meeting with his new Business Advisory Board. Pictured next to Cameron is Eileen Burbidge, a partner at Passion Capital and the new chair of Silicon Roundabout organisation Tech City UK. Presumably any instinct to smirk was curbed, but did any of the chief executives on his advisory board offer him private words of advice on how best to cope with a former colleague out for revenge?

Photograph: Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images

In Numbers: Happy Birthday


$2 million Sum that music rights holder Warner/Chappell is estimated to make each year from the use of the song Happy Birthday on films, television, radio, advertisements and other public performances.

$1,500 Amount that Warner tried to charge Rupa Marya and Robert Siegel for the use of Happy Birthday in their film – a documentary about the origins of the song. Marya and Siegel argued that the song was in the public domain.

80 Years since the copyright was originally filed. A US federal judge has now ruled that it covers only the melody and certain piano arrangements, but not the all-important lyrics. For he's a jolly good fellow, etc.

The Lexicon: Diesel dupe

Volkswagen, the German car brand cruelly dubbed "the Lance Armstrong of Automakers" by, is the company responsible for the great "diesel dupe". The installation of "defeat devices" in 11 million of its vehicles so it could cheat emissions tests has already cost chief executive Martin Winterkorn his job, but could it spell doom for the broader diesel car market? Analysts suggest VW's "screw-up" will speed up the decline of diesel in Europe and stop it in its tracks in the US, while some diesel-skeptics have been using the scandal to issue "I told you so"-style verdicts on diesel cars. Basically, they're not as green as the makers say, and they're not as green as you think.

Getting to know: Sergei Pugachev

Sergei Pugachev once went by the moniker “Putin’s banker”. But the ex-oligarch is very much off Vladimir’s Christmas card list, having filed a $12 billion claim against his homeland. He says Russia carved up his business empire, including two massive shipyards and the world’s biggest mine, after he fell out with the president he once helped get elected. Russia in turn accuses Pugachev of embezzling millions of dollars and an Interpol warrant has duly been issued for his arrest at Moscow’s request. Pugachev told the Guardian in July that he feared for his life and that he was broke, or “down to my last $70 million” as he put it. It’s not much, in fairness, considering his long-term security requirements.

The list: Goldman Sachs book tips

“Vampire squid” investment bank Goldman Sachs showed off its cultural side this week by publishing a “back-to-school” reading list. Why? “Learning is a continuum.” Here are some of its executives’ recommendations:

1 The Divine Within: Selected Writings on Enlightenment: Aldous Huxley on "existentialism without the pessimism". Sadly in this brave new world, the value of your investments may still go down as well as up.

2 How to Win Friends and Influence People: Never overlook Dale Carnegie’s classic, it contains “basic, yet extremely important and valuable advice”.

3 My Beloved World: Sonia Sotomayor’s memoir tracing her life journey from a Bronx housing project to the US supreme court is “an incredible example of what it means to take charge of your destiny”.

4 Revival: The Stephen King horror revolves around the discovery of "secret electricity", an all-powerful energy source that can miraculously cure people.

5 Wolf Hall: What could possibly have attracted a financier to Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell-themed novel, a vivid take on “an outsider who deftly accumulates power and influence in a treacherous insiders’ arena”?