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'Happy Birthday' Lawsuit: Settlement Reached, Trial Avoided

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By    |   Thursday, 10 Dec 2015 03:40 PM

The well-known and beloved "Happy Birthday to You" song is in the public domain, free for use, after a lawsuit over the tune's ownership was settled this week.

Details of the 2013 class-action lawsuit between Warner/Chappell Music, which claims to own the copyright to the song, and a group of artists wanting the fees they've paid for the song returned have not been released, but Reuters reported that a source and court paperwork both confirm that the song will be back in the public domain.

The case was scheduled to go to court next week, but U.S. District Judge George H. King vacated the trial on Tuesday and said the matter had been resolved between the parties, Reuters noted.  King ruled in September that Warner/Chappell did not own the copyright to the song's lyrics and was not allowed to charge for its use.

"While we respectfully disagreed with the court's decision, we are pleased to have now resolved this matter," Warner/Chappell said in a statement quoted by Reuters.

That ruling didn't clear up the case because the plaintiffs had asked that all monies collected for use of the "Happy Birthday" song be returned.

"We did exhaustive historical research and none of it showed that the publisher owned anything other than copyrights to four very specific piano arrangements," plaintiff attorney Mark Rifkin told the media after the September ruling. "In the second part of the case, which hopefully we'll get to start very soon, we're going to be asking the court to order Warner to return all the money that's been collected from everyone who has had to pay a licensing fee or royalty to use the song . . . at least going back to 1988."

It is unclear what kind of financial settlement, if any, was made in regard to the case, Reuters said.

According to The Associated Press, the song was written by Kentucky sisters Mildred and Patty Hill in 1893 and was originally called "Good Morning to All." The tune eventually was used for the "Happy Birthday song." King ruled that, although certain versions of the song are copyrighted, the lyrics never were.

While almost everyone sings the song at family gatherings and events, Warner/Chappell had been paid millions over the years whenever the song was used in a commercial enterprise, Reuters said.

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The well-known and beloved "Happy Birthday to You" song is in the public domain, free for use, after a lawsuit over the tune's ownership was settled this week.
happy birthday, lawsuit, settlement, reached
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2015-40-10
Thursday, 10 Dec 2015 03:40 PM
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