‘Happy birthday’ set for public domain after long feud

Dispute began after a low-budget film on the history of ‘Happy Birthday to You’ balked at the $1,500 the publisher demanded

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“Happy Birthday to You,” often considered the most popular song in the world, looks finally set to be free for everyone to sing.

After prolonged legal wrangling, U.S. publisher Warner/Chappell Music agreed to pay $14 million in a settlement that would effectively end its claims to the song’s copyright.


The dispute began in 2013 after makers of a low-budget film on the history of “Happy Birthday to You” balked at the $1,500 the publisher demanded for the song’s use.

The filmmakers filed a class action suit on behalf of people who paid to use the song, which became widely known in the United States a century ago and has since spread globally.

In a settlement submitted to a federal court in Los Angeles on Monday, the publishing house, which is part of the Warner Music conglomerate, agreed to pay $14 million and end its efforts to collect royalties for the song.

“By declaring the song to be in the public domain, the settlement will end more than 80 years of uncertainty regarding the disputed copyright,” the settlement submitted by plaintiffs to the court said.

The deal needs a judge’s approval, which is likely because both sides are in agreement.

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