YAY! “HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU” IS NOW PUBLIC DOMAIN AND BE USED FREELY WITHOUT PAYING ROYALTIES TO WARNER/CHAPPELL!!! YAAAAA-wait… what? It hasn’t been considered a folk song in the public domain this whole time?!?!

Let’s ask Wikipedia…

The origins of “Happy Birthday to You” date back to at least the late 19th century, when two sisters, Patty and Mildred J. Hill, introduced the song “Good Morning to All” to Patty’s kindergarten class in Kentucky.[10] Years later, in 1893, they published the tune in their songbook Song Stories for the Kindergarten. Kembrew McLeod stated that the Hill sisters likely copied the tune and lyrical idea from other popular and similar nineteenth-century songs that predated theirs, including Horace Waters’ “Happy Greetings to All”, “Good Night to You All” also from 1858, “A Happy New Year to All” from 1875, and “A Happy Greeting to All”, published 1885. However, Brauneis disputes this, noting that these earlier songs had quite different melodies.[20]

K. So, it’s old.

In 1935, several specific piano arrangements and an unused second verse of “Happy Birthday to You” were copyrighted as a work for hire crediting Preston Ware Orem for the piano arrangements and Mrs. R. R. Forman for the lyrics by the Summy Company, the publisher of “Good Morning to All”.[22][23] This served as the legal basis for claiming that Summy Company legally registered the copyright for principle song, as well as the later renewal of these copyrights.[24] A later 2015 lawsuit would find this claim baseless.

Mkay, go on…

Warner/Chappell Music acquired Birch Tree Group Limited [Summy Company] in 1988 for US$25 million.[10][11] The company continued to insist that one cannot sing the “Happy Birthday to You” lyrics for profit without paying royalties: in 2008, Warner collected about US$5,000 per day (US$2 million per year) in royalties for the song.[25] Warner/Chappell claimed copyright for every use in film, television, radio, anywhere open to the public, and for any group where a substantial number of those in attendance are not family or friends of whoever is performing the song.


In the 1987 documentary Eyes on the Prize about the US Civil Rights Movement, there was a birthday party scene in which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.‘s discouragement began to lift. After its initial release, the film was unavailable for sale or broadcast for many years because of the cost of clearing many copyrights, of which “Happy Birthday to You” was one.


During the March 6, 2014 episode of the Comedy Central series The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert planned to sing the song in honor of the 90th anniversary of its 1924 publication, but was “forced” to sing a new “royalty-free” version—with lyrics set to “The Star-Spangled Banner“, instead, due to the copyright issues.[56][57]


So, this company whose only link to the Happy Birthday song (which may have been “written” as early the late 1800s) is a 1988 corporate acquisition allowing them to use their copyright claim to make about $2,000,000 per year in lawsuits. The artists who originally wrote, arranged, or even performed this song aren’t even alive to make any of that money! WHO ARE THESE COPYRIGHT LAWS DESIGNED TO PROTECT?!?!?

Further proceedings in the case will determine whether Warner/Chappell will have to pay back some portion of the millions in dollars in licensing fees it has charged.

Justice… maybe…