The “Happy Birthday” Song Might Finally Enter The Public Domain

Warner Music’s generations-long claim to the song is under question.

August 04, 2015

Warner Music Group has owned the rights to the ubiquitous "Happy Birthday to You" song since 1935, meaning every time the song is used in film, print, or TV, the company makes a modest profit. Some new information, however, might end Warner's claim to the song.

Today, The New York Times reported on a federal lawsuit filed by a group of independent artists trying to free the popular jingle from Warner's grasp. The group claims to have found a century-old songbook that proves the song predates the version present in Warner’s 1935 copyright.

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If the group is right, Warner Music Group's ownership of the song--which was set to expire in 2030--would be deemed invalid and creators around the world would no longer have to pay licencing charges to feature the popular jingle in their work. The Times reports that Warner collects hundreds of thousands in fees for "Happy Birthday" every year. The judge in the case is set to make a final decision in the coming weeks.

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The “Happy Birthday” Song Might Finally Enter The Public Domain