Rethinking The Copyright To “Happy Birthday To You”

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For years, Warner / Chappel Music has made good coin off of the royalties they’ve charged for the use of “Happy Birthday To You.” Those days may be be over soon.

TechDirt reports that documentary film makers have gathered plenty of evidence that the song has been in the public domain, and has been so for a while. The film makers are suing Warner / Chappel in order to have them return all the royalties they have collected over the years.

Irrefutable documentary evidence, some dating back to 1893, s hows 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.

The song earns millions every year. This suit ought to be interesting.

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