A federal judge ruled on Tuesday that the lyrics to “Happy Birthday to You” are not protected by copyright, concluding that Warner/Chappell Music does not hold a valid claim to the song.
It raises the prospect that royalties will no longer be collected from public performances of the song in movies, TV shows and other productions.
The decision by U.S. District Judge George H. King is a victory for a filmmaker, Jennifer Nelson, making a documentary about the history of the song, who along with other plaintiffs challenged the the music publisher’s claim to the lyrics, allowing them to collect royalties for years.
King wrote that Summy Co. never acquired the rights to the lyrics in 1935, and as successor in interest to that publisher, Warner/Chappell “does not own a valid copyright.”
By some estimates, the publisher collected up to $2 million a year in royalties from the song.http://variety.com/2015/biz/news/happy-birthday-song-public-domain-copyright-1201600319/