Many say it’s the most performed song in the world – and now no-one’s going to have to pay for the privilege.
A two-year-old lawsuit over the ownership of the copyright of Happy Birthday is coming to a close, as publisher Warner/Chappell settles with the plaintiffs who kicked off the dispute.
The most important outcome: once the settlement process has been approved, Happy Birthday will be in the public domain.
That’s not an ideal outcome for Warner/Chappell, which was previously generating around $2m in royalties from the song each year.
The lawsuit kicked off in 2013 after documentary filmmaker Jennifer Nelson filed a putative class action case against Warner/Chappell, claiming its copyright of Happy Birthday was not lawful.
In September, federal judge George H King agreed, ruling that Warner/Chappell’s copyright claim was legally invalid and giving summary judgement to the plaintiffs.
Warner/Chappell argued that the judge should reconsider this ruling or authorise an appeal, before US children's charity ACEI intervened in the suit with new evidence.
There will, however, be no appeal, or trial investigating ACEI's claims, because Warner/Chappell has chosen to settle.
As a result, Happy Birthday will soon belong to everyone.
A spokesperson for Warner/Chappell told MBW: "While we respectfully disagreed with the Court's decision, we are pleased to have now resolved this matter.”