Further Update on Happy Birthday Copyright

Christine Mai-Duc / Los Angeles Times

Christine Mai-Duc / Los Angeles Times

A US judge (George King) has ruled that Warner/Chappell, which acquired the copyright to Happy Birthday in 1988, only bought rights to specific arrangements of the melody, not to the actual song. Warner/Chappell got the rights when it bought another company, which was the successor to yet another company, which got the rights from sisters Mildred and Patty Hill, who wrote the song Good Morning to All in 1893. That song was meant to be sung in class by school children, and the melody was later combined with the Happy Birthday lyrics that we know today. If you’re as confused as I am, then you’re getting a glimpse at the mess which is current copyright law.

This judgement applies only to the US, and only to part of the song. Other parts of the song and other renditions of it may still be encumbered, so think twice before posting your birthday party on Youtube if it contains any part of the Happy Birthday song. Read the linked articles for more clarificatioon.

Here are my first and second posts on this topic.

Here are links to the story at NPR, BBC, the LA Times and the Hollywood Reporter.

A small step in the right direction, since this song might finally be kinda, sorta, partially in the public domain at last.


About arjaybe

Jim has fought forest fires and controlled traffic in the air and on the sea. Now he writes stories.
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1 Response to Further Update on Happy Birthday Copyright

  1. emmylgant says:

    I’m rolling my eyes…

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