" a stunning reversal of decades of copyright claims, a federal judge in Los Angeles has ruled that Warner/Chappell Music does not hold a valid copyright claim to the "Happy Birthday To You," song. Warner had been enforcing its copyright claim since it paid $15 million to buy Birch Tree Group, the successor to Clayton F. Summy Co., which owned the original copyright. Royalties on the song bring in about $2 million a year for Warner, according to some estimates. Judge George H. King ruled Tuesday afternoon that a copyright filed by the Summy Co. in 1935 granted only the rights to specific arrangements of the music, not the actual song itself. "Because Summy Co. never acquired the rights to the Happy Birthday lyrics," wrote King. "Defendants, as Summy Co.'s purported successors-in-interest, do not own a valid copyright in the Happy Birthday lyrics." "'Happy Birthday' is finally free after 80 years," said Randall Newman, an attorney for the plaintiffs, which included a group of filmmakers who are producing a documentary about the song. "Finally, the charade is over. It's unbelievable.""
Tuesday, September 22, 2015
'Happy Birthday' song copyright is not valid, judge rules; Los Angeles Times, 9/22/15
Christine Mai-Duc, Los Angeles Times; 'Happy Birthday' song copyright is not valid, judge rules: