Indian-Origin Woman Wins ‘Happy Birthday to You’ Copyright Battle

Warner Chappell Music has agreed to pay back $14m to those who paid licensing fees for the ‘Happy Birthday’ song.

Published28 Jun 2016, 04:54 PM IST
2 min read

The “Happy Birthday to You” song will soon be in the public domain after a judge approved a settlement to end the ownership claims of Warner Chappell Music. And you have an Indian origin woman to thank for taking on the music major.

A federal judge signed off Monday on a settlement of the copyright case involving “Happy Birthday” – billed as the most recognised song in the English language – and ordered that the ditty be placed in the public domain for use at no charge.

Music publisher Warner/Chappell Music agreed to end its claim of ownership and refund $14 million to end the long-running dispute over royalty rights to the tune. The money will be distributed among those who paid licensing fees to use the song during the previous five decades.

This is a very historic and important moment to show that we actually can fight back and we can win. So, it’s exciting.
Rupa Marya, leader of the band Rupa & the April Fishes

Marya recorded the tune three years ago at a San Francisco nightclub on the eve of her birthday. She said she was shocked when her attorney broke the news that she would have to shell out $455 to include it on her live album.

“Happy Birthday to You” is believed to have emerged in 1893 when Kentucky schoolteacher Patty Smith Hill wrote it for her kindergarten students with the help of her sister Mildred J Hill. It was originally titled “Good Morning to All” with the original lyrics as follows: “Good morning to you, good morning to you, good morning dear children, good morning to all”.

(The article has been curated from various sources, credited via hyperlinks.)

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