“‘Happy Birthday’ Song Copyright Ruled to Be Invalid”

“The world’s most popular English language song is potentially free from copyright after a federal judge ruled on Tuesday that filmmakers challenging Warner/Chappell Music’s hold on “Happy Birthday to You” should be granted summary judgment.” [Eriq Gardner, Hollywood Reporter/Billboard] We’ve covered the saga a number of times previously. More: Lowering the Bar.


  • Hip, hip, hooray.

    Three cheers for the court.

    For the judge is a jolly good fellow.

    (I hope there are no copyright issues).

  • “The “Happy Birthday” song dates to late 19th century work by a schoolteacher named Patty Smith Hill and her sister Mildred Hill.

    The Hill sisters later assigned rights to a publishing company owned by Clayton Summy. Later, copyright registrations were made by Sumny’s company on “Happy Birthday.” Warner/Chappell has been contending that the 1935 registration covered both the piano arrangement as well as nearly universally known lyrics.”

    From this it seems that the correct ruling would be that copyright protection has Constitutionally expired. Article I Section 8:8 of the Constitution gives Congress the power “To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for LIMITED TIMES to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.” (EMPHASIS ADDED).

    The copyright law as it existed in 1935 gave a term of 28 years, that was renewable for an additional 28 year period.

    Now, for works made for hire and anonymous and pseudonymous works, the duration of copyright is 95 years from first publication or 120 years from creation, whichever is shorter, unless the author’s identity is later revealed in Copyright Office records, in which case the term becomes the author’s life plus 70 years.

    In my opinion, this is not the “limited times” within the meaning of the Constitution.

  • The other night I hinted to a server at a restaurant that this issue may well be resolved soon. This occurred the day before the ruling was issued. The waitress expressed great joy because she said that a lot of younger patrons were terrified by the loud clapping and near military cadence of the selected alternate ditty. Can these patrons and their parents now sue for the infliction of harm caused by the horrendous and frightening clapping? “My kid gets scared every time he goes to a ‘kid friendly’ restaurant. Even if they are clapping for someone else, he now wants to hide under the table!”