Music

$2 Million Lawsuit Attempts to Overturn ‘Happy Birthday’ Copyright

| by Lauren Schiff
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For more than 120 years, the infamous ‘Happy Birthday’ ditty has belonged legally to Warner/Chappell, who has been graced with a ridiculous amount of royalty fees since its song has taken over the nation.

The song, which was first published in 1893 under the original title “Good Morning to All,” written by sisters Patty and Mildred Hill, has since been sung at nearly every birthday party in American existence. The current lawsuit, however, states that the branch of Warner Music Group defends itself “wrongfully and unlawfully,” by insisting that it “owns the copyright to Happy Birthday to You." The song apparently reels in millions of dollars every year.

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Now, Good Morning To You productions corporation is set to do a documentary on the song. The appeal lies in the fact that it has become immensely popular in America, so much so that “Happy Birthday” as been named by Guinness as the most popular song of the 20th century, and the most recognized song in general by the American public. 

The legal owner to the song, however, is looking to collect an insanely huge bounty in licensing fees from Good Morning To You productions. 

As states the Manhattan federal court, however:

Irrefutable documentary evidence, some dating to 1893, shows that the copyright to 'Happy Birthday to You,' if there ever was a valid copyright to any part of the song, expired no later than 1921 and that if defendant Warner/Chappell owns any rights to 'Happy Birthday to You,' those rights are limited to the extremely narrow right to reproduce and distribute specific piano arrangements for the song published in 1935.

Good Morning To You also adds thatfour previous copyrights to the melody of the similar-sounding song ‘Good Morning to All,’ filed in 1893, 1896, 1899 and 1907, have expired or been forfeited.”

If Good Morning to You’s lawsuit fails, “Happy Birthday to You” will “remain under copyright protection until 2030,” says the Daily Mail.

Wonder what they’ll be singing on their birthdays in the meantime.

Sources: Daily Mail, NY Post, Yahoo! News