Good Morning To You Productions v. Warner/Chappell Music Inc.
When you gather with friends or family to celebrate birthdays, you probably never considered that that famous song you sing them was “owned” by anyone. No worries; you can now sing “Happy Birthday” to someone in public without potentially being sued for royalties. A federal district court in California has held that Warner/Chappell Music, Inc. can no longer claim a copyright on the song. The ruling is part of a class action settlement in which the music publishing giant will have to repay $14 million in copyright infringement awards it has collected over the years.
The song, which is the most widely recognized composition in the English language, was allegedly composed in the late 19th century by a schoolteacher and her sister, and was originally entitled “Good Morning to All” and contained different lyrics. The “Happy Birthday” lyrics and music were first put into print beginning in 1911, but neither the words nor the melody were ever definitively or consistently attributed to anyone. The rights to the song were acquired from the sisters by the Clayton Summy Co., which was much later acquired by Warner. Continue reading ›