Thursday, September 24, 2015

" #HappyBirthday to You" Copyright Struck Down! Song is Now Public Domain According to Federal Judge

After almost a century of subjugation to questionable copyright claims, the world may now freely sing "Happy Birthday to You" without paying royalties or the fear of legal action, according to Judge George H. King of Los Angeles Federal Court. 

Judge King ruled on Tuesday that copyright filed by the Summy Co. in 1935 granted only rights to specific piano arrangements of the music, not the actual song. 

In an article published by The Los Angeles Times, the ruling states that none of copyright claims to the song over the past 80 years have been valid. "'Happy Birthday' is finally free after 80 years," said Randall Newman, an attorney for the plaintiffs in the suit, which included a group of filmmakers who are producing a documentary about the song. "Finally, the charade is over. It's unbelievable."

Filmmaker Jennifer Nelson was asked to sign a licensing agreement and pay Warner/Chappell, the company claiming copyright to the song, in order to include it in her documentary Happy Birthday. But instead, Nelson decided to sue.

The song has been estimated to bring in around $2 million a year for Warner Music Group.Warner and the plaintiffs both agreed that the melody of "Good Morning To All," the original tune, had entered the public domain decades ago. Warner, however, claimed it still owned the rights to the "Happy Birthday" lyrics, leaning on the 1935 copyright claim.

Judge King ruled that there was no evidence that the Summy Co. - the original company to assert a copyright claim - ever legally obtained the rights to the "Happy Birthday To You" song from whomever wrote it, thus invalidating any future claims and striking down all previous ones and opening up the potential for a class action suit to recoup previous royalty payments.

George Washington University law professor, Robert Braune claims the ruling does not explicitly place "Happy Birthday To You" in the public domain. But that "Figuring out who owned [the rights] at this point would be quite an interesting job."

Warner Music Group has yet to indicate if they will seek an appeal of this ruling.

1 comment:

  1. $9 Million Fraud Judgment Against Antony Gordon In Federal Court

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