It’s a short tune consisting of only six notes, but one which is known and used around the globe yet until earlier this year, “Happy Birthday to You” was considered to be subject to copyright held by Warner/Chappell Music. The birthday compilation is thought to have had its genesis in a Kentucky kindergarten in around 1893 at which it was sung to kindergarten children as “Good morning to you”.
Since then, the copyright has changed hands a number of times and has resulted in Warner/Chappell Music reaping millions of dollars in royalties each year because whenever it is used in television shows, movies, print or even publicly, Warner/Chappell claimed to be entitled to a royalty fee.
But all that has now changed because a US Federal Court Judge has recently ruled that the copyright originally filed by another entity in 1935 only gave them rights over specific arrangements of the music rather than the actual song itself.
The decision may seem rather trivial but it means that people can sing or play the song now in restaurants, schools, clubs, and other public venues without fear of being hit with a law suit by a music industry behemoth from across the globe.
So now, when it’s that special day of the year for you, feel free to sing that familiar tune as loudly and boldly as you like, because you can’t be made to pay for the privilege!
by Travis Schultz