The “Happy Birthday” song is finally free!

Remember a while back when we filled you in on the copyright battle over the Happy Birthday song? Well, good news! The ruling on the case that challenged the copyright held on the iconic birthday jingle has been handed down, and at least for now, it looks like the Happy Birthday song is on it’s way to being public domain!

To refresh: The copyright for the song “Happy Birthday To You” was, until yesterday, held by Warner/Chappell Music. In order to use the song in any way, a fee had to be paid to them before it could appear in movies, on TV, or be used by other companies. But evidence surfaced that the song could have been much older than previously thought, and the way copyright laws work, it should have been in the public domain. Plus there was a lot of selling off of the rights and possible not-quite-official moves that muddied the waters even more. Basically, a song we all thought was just kind of there was actually making millions for one company.

U.S. District Judge George H. King agreed that it should be in the public domain. His decision was based on the fact that the rights to the song weren’t actually given to Summy Co, who eventually sold the song to Warner/Chappell. In his ruling, he said:

“Because Summy Co. never acquired the rights to the Happy Birthday lyrics, Defendants, as Summy Co.’s purported successors-in-interest, do not own a valid copyright in the Happy Birthday lyrics.”

So what does that mean? Well, right now, it’s a win. But this is only the first step. The plaintiffs in the case want Warner/Chappell to pay back the money they received in licensing fees during the time the song should have been in the public domain, and the ruling can be challenged in appellate court.

But at least for now, it looks like “Happy Birthday To You” will soon be free for use.

(Image via CBS)


The Happy Birthday song goes to court