The world’s most popular song has just entered the public domain.
A US judge has reversed decades of copyright claims by ruling that Warner/Chappell never had the right to charge for the use of the ‘Happy Birthday To You’ song.
Judge George H. King ruled that a copyright filed by the Clayton F. Summy Co. in 1935 only applied to specific piano arrangements of the music, not the actual song. The rights to the song were purchased by Warner/Chappell in 1988 when it bought a successor company to Summy.
“‘Happy Birthday’ is finally free after 80 years,” said attorney Randall Newman. “Finally, the charade is over. It’s unbelievable.”
Warner/Chappell was making around $2m a year from royalty payments whenever the song was used in a film, TV show or advertisement.
The case was launched in 2013 by filmmakers Rupa Marya and Robert Siegel, who are making a documentary about the song and were asked to pay $1,500 (£970) for the right to use it in the film.