“Happy Birthday” Song Copyright Dispute

Here is an interesting fact: Warner/Chappell Music Publishing claims to still own the copyright for the music and lyrics to the song “Happy Birthday”. The Guinness Book of Records says the song is the most recognizable in the world (1998 edition). Warner/Chappell acquired another publisher, Birch Tree Hill, that registered the copyright in 1935, therefore that copyright is extended through the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998. But there is a lawsuit filled in US District Court that claims that the melody of the song comes from a song penned by the Hill sisters in 1893, called “Good Morning To All”. Therefore does not qualify for the exemption and is now in the public domain. from Variety’s website: “The suits filed last summer contend that Warner/Chappell has been collecting license fees for the song even though it is in the public domain. The plaintiffs claim that the song “is neither copyrighted nor copyrightable,” and that the public began singing it “no later than the early 1900s.”” The Judge will first decide if Warner/Chappell owns the copyright, then, depending on the outcome, will look at what other laws have been broken. There is potential this could grow into a class action lawsuit to recover money previously paid for the license. Curious what “Good Morning to All” sounds like? Here is a quieter version on YouTube.