'Happy Birthday to You' heads to court over $50M song rights lawsuit

  • Pop2it
Did you know that Warner Bros. currently owns the rights to the song "Happy Birthday to You"? What about the fact that it costs $1,500 to feature the song just once in a film? Documentarian Jennifer Nelson, who is currently making a documentary about the history of "Happy Birthday to You," didn't realize either of those facts when she started making her film, and has now filed a $50 million lawsuit against Warner Bros. over the song rights.

"Before I began my filmmaking career, I never thought the song was owned by anyone. I thought it belonged to everyone," Nelson tells The New York Times. Her goal is to have the song be declared public domain.

Back in 1988, Warner Bros. paid $25 million to purchase the rights to "Happy Birthday" from Birchtree Ltd. It's estimated that the company makes $2 million per year in licensing fees from the song. Nelson's lawsuit notes that "Happy
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A New Legal Battle: Who Owns ‘Happy Birthday to You’?

It may come as a surprise to many that “Happy Birthday to You,” perhaps the most popular song in the English language, falls under copyright, or at least Warner/Chappell Music claims that they own it.

The makers of a documentary on the song, dating to 1893, are challenging the publisher’s collection of royalties for uses of “Happy Birthday,” claiming that the if there ever was a valid copyright to the work, it expired no later than 1921.

In a suit filed on Thursday, Good Morning to You Prods. is asking a New York federal court to issue a declaratory judgment that the work is in the public domain. It also is asking that a class be certified for the return of licensing fees that Warner/Chappell has collected over the years.The suit claims that the publisher, a unit of Warner Music Group, collects at least $2 million a year in license fees.
See full article at Variety - Film News »

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