Federal Court rules that “Happy Birthday To You” song is not subject to Copyright Protection

Recently the Central District Court of California ruled that no copyright protection exists for the popular “Happy Birthday To You” song after several decades of dispute.[1] Marya, involved a class action suit against Warner/Chappell Music, Inc. (“Warner/Chappell”) seeking to invalidate Warner/Chappell’s alleged copyright in the “Happy Birthday To You” song.[2] Warner/Chappell alleged that it owned a copyright for the lyrics of the “Happy Birthday To You” song.[3] Neither party disputed that the melody of the “Happy Birthday To You” song had entered the public domain, thus, the main dispute revolved around a copyright in the lyrics.[4] The Court found that Warner/Chappell never acquired rights in the lyrics of the song.[5]

The immediate result of this decision is place the “Happy Birthday To You” song into the public domain, subject to any appeal filed by Warner/Chappell. Thus, companies that previously attempted to collect royalties or license the use of the song can no longer do so and the song is free to be used.

Please contact our office if you have any questions regarding the information in this article.

Daniel Devine, Esq.
Santucci Priore, P.L.

[1] See, Marya, et. al. v. Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., et. al., No. CV 13-4460-GHK (MRWx) 2015 WL 5568497 (C.D. Cal. Sept. 22, 2015).
[2] Id. at 2015 WL 5568497 at *1.
[3] Id. at 2015 WL 5568497 at *5.
[4] Id.
[5] Id. at 2015 WL 5568497 at *19.

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