Lawsuit filed against the copyright of ‘Happy birthday to you’
The copyright of the most famous song of English language “Happy Birthday to You” has been challenged by a production company Good Morning To You Productions Corp. who is making a documentary about the song.
About “Happy Birthday to You” and the case:
The melody of “Happy Birthday to You” comes from the song “Good Morning to All”, which was written and composed by American siblings Patty Hill and Mildred J. Hill in 1893. The sisters created “Good Morning to All” as a song that young children would find easy to sing.
The combination of melody and lyrics in “Happy Birthday to You” first appeared in print in 1912. There were no mentions of copyright in its early appearances. The Summy Company registered for copyright in 1935, crediting authors Preston Ware Orem and Mrs. R.R. Forman.
In 1988, Warner/Chappell purchase
Based on the 1935 copyright registration, Warner claims that the United States copyright will not expire until 2030, and that unauthorized public performances of the song are technically illegal unless royalties are paid to it.
‘Good Morning To You Productions’ claims that evidence dating to 1893 helps show the song’s copyright expired around 1921.The lawsuit says Warner/Chappell claims the copyright to the song based on piano arrangements published in 1935 but that the copyright applies only to the piano arrangement and not to the melody or lyrics. The lawsuit argues that the song should be “dedicated to public use and in the public domain”. The company is seeking monetary damages and restitution of more than $5 million in licensing fees collected by Warner/Chappell Music Inc. from thousands of people and groups who’ve paid it licensing fees.