Documentarian wipes out Warner’s $2M “Happy Birthday” copyright

23 09 2015
(credit: From court records in Good Morning to You v. Warner/Chappell)

More than two years after a documentary filmmaker challenged the copyright to the simple lyrics of the song “Happy Birthday,” a federal judge ruled Tuesday that the copyright is invalid.

The result could undo Warner/Chappell’s lucrative licensing business around the song, once estimated to be $2 million per year. The company is likely to appeal the ruling to the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.

US District Judge George King held that the two sisters who authored the song, Patty and Mildred Hill, gave the melody and piano arrangements to Summy Co., which was eventually acquired by Warner/Chappell. But King wrote that there’s no evidence they ever transferred a copyright on the words.


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