Hot! Court Rules ‘Happy Birthday’ No Longer Under Copyright

It’s now legal to use ‘Happy Birthday To You’ for commercial enterprises without paying royalties, the BBC has reported.

Image Credit: Steve Snodgrass (Flickr)

Happy birthday to us all! Image Credit: Steve Snodgrass (Flickr)

A court has ruled that Warner/Chappell, who have been enforcing a copyright since 1988, after it paid $15 million to buy the company which owned the original copyright.

Anyone using the song on TV, film, public performances, and technically even when sung by staff in restaurants, would have to pay a royalty. This has been the source of roughly $2 million a year for Warner/Chappell.

The song was written in 1893 by Kentucky sisters Patty and Mildred Hill, which has since become one of the most popular songs in history, known all over the world.

Judge George King ruled that the copyright only applied to specific piano arrangements of the song, and not the song itself.

The case came to court after some documentary film makers, wanting to make a film about the song but were told they would have to pay $ 1,500 to legally use it. The filmmakers argued that the tune is in the public domain.

Judge King agreed.

See the full story here and here.

Go here to learn about the Copyright Laws in Thailand.

Related reports:
Private Use on Musical Works, Rights of Public Performance
Taking on the Copyright Pirates in Thailand
Copyright exceptions for research, study and libraries in Thailand

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