Article 13J8A “Happy Birthday” is public domain, former owner Warner/Chapell to pay $14M

“Happy Birthday” is public domain, former owner Warner/Chapell to pay $14M

by
Joe Mullin
from Ars Technica on (#13J8A)
Birthday.Song_.png

(credit: From court records in Good Morning to You v. Warner/Chappell)

The public will soon be free to sing the world's most famous song.

Music publisher Warner/Chappell will no longer be allowed to collect licensing royalties on those who sing "Happy Birthday" in public and will pay back $14 million to those who have paid for licensing in the past, according to court settlement papers filed late Monday night.

The settlement is a result of a lawsuit originally filed in 2013 by filmmaker Jennifer Nelson, who challenged the "Happy Birthday" copyright. "Happy Birthday" has the same melody as "Good Morning to You," a children's song dating to the 19th Century. But despite the song's murky early history, music publisher Warner/Chappell has stuck to its story that the song was copyrighted in 1935, and a royalty had to be paid for any public use of it—until now.

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