29 June 2016Copyright

US judge approves ‘Happy Birthday’ settlement

A US judge has approved a settlement agreement centring on “Happy Birthday to You”, meaning the song can enter the public domain.

Judge George King approved the $14 million agreement at the US District Court for the Central District of California.

According to Canadian broadcaster CBC, King approved a settlement agreement on Monday, June 27, despite the fact the agreement was originally scheduled to be approved in March this year.

The case stemmed from a 2013 class action lawsuit filed by film production company Good Morning to You Productions against music publisher Warner/Chappell.

In the case, Good Morning to You claimed that the music company was not the owner of the copyright to the song and had unfairly collected royalties.

Warner/Chappell previously charged the film company $1,500 to use the song in a documentary it was making.

In September last year, Warner/Chappell lost its rights to the song after the California court ruled that another music publisher Clayton F Summy Company did not transfer the rights to the lyrics as part of a deal agreed in 1998.

As a result, the court said the song should enter the public domain and both parties agreed to settle the lawsuit.

The song was originally composed in 1893 under the name “Good Morning to All."

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More on this story

10 February 2016   Music publisher Warner/Chappell has agreed that “Happy Birthday to You” can enter the public domain and will pay out $14 million, in what has been described as a “historical result” by the film makers that brought the case.
22 August 2016   The lawyers who succeeded in bringing “Happy Birthday to You” into the public domain following a copyright dispute over the lyrics have been awarded $4 million in fees.