‘Happy Birthday’ lawsuit settles for $14 million
NEW YORK — The candles have been blown out on the “Happy Birthday” copyright lawsuit.
Warner/Chappell, a global music publishing company who claimed to hold the copyright to “Happy Birthday To You,” will pay $14 million to settle a lengthy class action lawsuit over rights to the song, according to court documents released on Monday.
The settlement will also send “Happy Birthday To You,” the 120-year-old song that is one of the most popular songs in the English language, into the public domain.
Judge George H. King will still have to sign off on the settlement. No party admits any wrongdoing.
The suit over the 16-word song has had a convoluted trip through the courts since the case began in 2013. In September 2015, Judge King ruled that the copyright had expired and the song was in the public domain, but his ruling was quickly appealed.
The suit argued that Warner/Chappell had made more than $2 million a year in fees from the song.
The complaint was filed by Good Morning To You Productions, which is making a documentary film about the tune, argued that the rights to the song expired and became public in 1921.
While “Happy Birthday To You” has been sung at nearly every birthday party for decades, the lawsuit and access to the song will have a big impact on TV, music and film which can now use the song without paying.
The song, which was written by sisters Mildred and Patty Hill, was sold to a Clayton F. Summy in 1893. Summy’s company was later bought by Warner Music Group in 1998, according to the suit.