How many times have you heard the song, "Happy Birthday To You" sung on a television show or film? Perhaps it's because singing the song publicly often came at a steep price. It's relatively well known that the rights to the lyrics of "Happy Birthday To You" have been tied up preventing the public performance of the celebratory tune.
On Tuesday, August 22, 2015 a Federal Judge in the Central District of California granted a summary judgment motion against Warner/Chappell, who has enforced the rights to the song for plenty of years. Warner/Chappell has collecting approximately $2 million per year in royalties for the song. Mildred Hill and Patty Smith Hill, the original writers and sisters, transferred the rights to the melody of the song to Clayton F. Summey Company, who was later acquired by Birch Tree Group. Birch Tree Group was then later acquired by Warner/Chappell. Judge George H. King, however, found that the rights to the lyrics to "Happy Birthday To You" were never properly transferred from the Hill Sisters and are therefore in the public domain free to use by anyone.
The next step in this lengthy battle, that's been going on since 2013, is to determine whether Warner/Chappell should be forced to return the royalties it has collected from the song over the years. In the meantime, creators should rejoice that their characters can celebrate their birthdays properly on the big and small screen without a hefty price tag.