Federal Judge Invalidates Copyright Claim For 'Happy Birthday' Song
September 23, 2015 at 4:04 AM (PT)
A federal judge has invalidated WARNER-CHAPPELL's copyright to the "Happy Birthday to You" song's lyrics and has placed the ditty in the public domain.
WARNER-CHAPPELL had contended that it owned the copyright to the song since 1988, when it purchased BIRCH TREE GROUP; BIRCH TREE claimed a copyright to the lyrics based on its predecessor CLAYTON F. SUMMY CO., which bought the rights from composers PATTY SMITH HILL and MILDRED J. HILL (the melody entered the public domain long ago).
But Judge GEORGE H. KING ruled that the 1935 copyright applied to some piano arrangements of the tune and not the underlying song. The ruling, which may be appealed, would end WARNER-CHAPPELL's right to collect royalties for every public performance of the song.