Judge: ‘Happy Birthday To You’ in public domain

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LOS ANGELES: It may be one of the most widely sung songs in history, and now a federal judge in California is ruling that the “Happy Birthday To You” song belongs in the public domain. Judge George H. King ruled Tuesday that Warner/Chappell Music does not have a copyright claim to the song even though it purchased a successor to the company that owned the original copyright. King ruled that the original copyright filed by the Summy Co. in 1935 granted only rights to certain arrangements of the music, but not to the song, the Los Angeles Times reports. Because the Summy Co. never acquired the rights to song’s lyrics, Warner/Chappell does not own a valid copyright, the judge ruled. The song was written by Kentucky schoolteacher Patty Smith Hill and her sister Mildred Hill. The original lyrics were built around the phrase “good morning to you.” Warner/Chappell has made about $2 million a year in royalties from the song, the Times estimates.

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