‘Happy Birthday’ Song No Longer Under Copyright
Did you know that the song 'Happy Birthday To You' was copyrighted? Well, not anymore.
U.S. Federal Judge George King has ruled that Warner/Chappell, the company who held the copyright on the song and collected royalties from it, does not hold a valid copyright to the song. Warner/Chappell acquired the copyright in 1988 for $25 million and has collected on average $2 million per year in royalties for use of the song in movies and television.
The question of the copyright's scope was brought up in 2013 by filmmakers Rupa Marya and Robert Siegel, who are making a movie about the history of the song. Marya and Siegel argued that the song was in Public Domain and not applicable to copyright fees. Warner/Chappell was asking for $1,500 to allow the filmmakers to use the song.
The song was written and composed by Mildred and Patty Hill in 1893, then called 'Good Morning To All', eventually morphing into the modern birthday song. The song was copyrighted in 1935, and then the copyright was acquired by Summy Co., who later sold the copyright to Warner/Chappell.
Judge King ruled that the copyright obtained by Summy Co. only covered specific arrangements of the song and the melody, but not the lyrics, removing the song from copyright protection and into public domain for all to use.