The “Happy Birthday” song is all set to become completely free from the shackles of copyright claims. Noting a glitch in the copyright filed years ago, a federal judge ruled that that the song cannot be restricted for public or commercial usage.
U.S. District Judge George H. King noted that “Happy Birthday To You” song, for which a music publishing company has been collecting royalties for years, does not hold a valid copyright on the lyrics to one of the mostly widely sung in the world. After analyzing the original copyright, the federal judge ruled that the song’s original copyright, obtained by the Clayton F. Summy Co. from the song’s writers, was limited only to the tune, or in other words, the musical composition, of the iconic song. From legal perspective, the lyrics weren’t part of the copyright filing and hence, the overall filing is invalid, reported SF Gate.
There has always been widespread confusion or ignorance about the “Happy Birthday” song and its copyright claim. While people across the globe openly sing the song at birthday parties, as it has now become a norm across countries, while being completely oblivious about the legality of the same, companies aren’t allowed to.
The Good Morning To You Productions Corp. took matters to court while it was working on a documentary film, tentatively titled “Happy Birthday,” and was the recipient of a copyright claim of cease and desist from the current owners of song, Warner/Chappell Music Inc. The company argued that song should be “dedicated to public use and in the public domain,” reported Fox News. The judge sided with the corporation, noting the following in a 43-page ruling.
“Because Summy Co. never acquired the rights to the ‘Happy Birthday’ lyrics, defendants, as Summy Co.’s purported successors-in-interest, do not own a valid copyright in the Happy Birthday lyrics.”
The ruling clearly means the “Happy Birthday” song is no longer restricted and can be openly used on any platform, without the users worrying about copyright claims. Incidentally, the current copyright owners categorically mentioned that they never attempted to collect royalties from individuals, but targeted only those companies or institutions that intended to use the song for commercial purposes. Speaking about the ruling, Warner/Chappell issued a statement that read as follows.
“We are looking at the court’s lengthy opinion and considering our options.”
The ruling ran 43 pages because the judge took great pains to dwell deep into the history of the song, noting that the origins of the “Happy Birthday” song aren’t as clear-cut as they were made out to be.
[Image Credit: Jamie Grill / Getty Images]