“Forgotten Hollywood”- Happy Birthday to You…

Posted on June 27, 2016 by raideoman1 | No Comments

Manny P. here…

   A judge has approved a settlement putting Happy Birthday to You in the Public Domain. United States District Judge George King approved the agreement. It ends the ownership claims of Warner/Chappell Music, the music publishing company that has been collecting royalties on the song for years.

   The company has agreed to pay back $14 million to those who have paid licensing fees to use the song. Last year, King ruled the company didn’t own the lyrics, one of the best-known and most beloved songs in the world. He said the company has no right to charge for the song’s use.

   The origins of Happy Birthday to You date back to the late 19th Century, when sisters, Patty and Mildred J. Hill, introduced Good Morning to All to Patty’s kindergarten class in Kentucky. The complete printed text of Happy Birthday to You first appeared in Edith Goodyear Alger’s poem Roy’s Birthday, published in her book, A Primer of Work and Play, copyrighted by D.C. Heath in 1901, with no reference to the lyrics.


   In 1935, a piano arrangement 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. A later corporate restructuring in the 1970s saw Summy-Birchard becoming a division of a new company: Birch Tree Group Unlimited.

   Warner/Chappell Music acquired Birch Tree Group Unlimited in 1988 for 25 million US dollars. The company continued to insist one cannot sing the Happy Birthday to You lyrics for profit without paying royalties. In 2008, Warner collected around $5,000 each day (roughly $2 million per year) in royalties for the song. 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

b4438229fbbb3e82255468c75b74ac49   On June 13th, 2013, documentary filmmaker Jennifer Nelson filed a class action suit in federal court for the Southern District of New York  against Warner/Chappell because of the name of her film company, Good Morning to You Productions. As part of a documentary she was making about the song and its history, she paid $1,500 to secure the rights. This week’s decision finally puts the tune in the Public Domain.

   Warner/Chappell said it didn’t try to collect royalties from just anyone singing the song, but those who use it in a commercial enterprise. Finally, the ditty will now be able to appear on television and on the big screen without fear of a financial backlash.                    SHIRLEY TEMPLE —->

   According to the 1998 Guinness World Records, Happy Birthday to You is considered the most recognized song in the English language.

Until next time>                               “never forget”

This entry was posted on Monday, June 27th, 2016 at 11:19 pm and is filed under Blog by Manny Pacheco. You can follow any comments to this post through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

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