For many, many years “Happy Birthday to You,” the most popular song in the English language, which is also sung by millions around the world, was copyrighted. For a long time, filmmakers and other media producers had to pay licensing fees to Warner/Chappell to use the song in production.
On September 22nd, a federal court judge in Los Angeles ruled that copyright on “Happy Birthday to You” is actually invalid. This means that the song will enter the public domain, free for all to use.
And the world rejoices.
Warner/Chappell Music and its parent company, the Warner Music Group, had held the tune’s copyright since 1988 and collects around $2 million in annual licensing fees. The song was co-written by Patty and Mildred Hill and was published by Clayton Summy, a company later purchased by Warner/Chappell. The one wrench in Warner/Chappell Music’s case is that Summy never acquired the rights to the tune’s lyrics, making the copyright invalid.
Here is a version of the song, in Swahili.