Copyright case over “Happy Birthday” is done, trial canceled

24 12 2016

With less than a week to go before a trial, a class-action lawsuit over the copyright status of “Happy Birthday” has been resolved. Details of the settlement, including what kind of uses will be allowed going forward, are not clear.

A short order (PDF) filed yesterday by US Chief District Court Judge George King says that all parties have agreed to a settlement, and it vacates a trial which was scheduled to start on December 15. The key turning point came in September, when King ruled that Warner/Chappell’s copyright transfer was invalid because there was no proof it was ever properly transferred from the Hill sisters, who claimed to have written the song.

The trial would have addressed damages issues. Also looming was a late copyright claim by Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI), a children’s’ charity affiliated with the Hill sisters. ACEI came forward in November to say that if Warner/Chappell didn’t own the song, it did. The settlement revealed yesterday resolves all claims by the plaintiffs, Warner/Chappell, and ACEI.


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