Filmmaker Files $50 Million Lawsuit Over The Song ‘Happy Birthday’
No song is better recognised than Happy Birthday to You, but for copyright reasons, anyone wanting to perform it on TV or in a film has to pay a licence fee. Now a film-maker in New York intends to bring a class-action lawsuit to make it freely available to everyone.
Jennifer Nelson was producing a documentary movie about the song when she was told she would have to pay $1,500 (£955) to the licence holders in order to include the song in the film. The rights are held by Warner/Chappell Music, the publishing arm of the Warner Music Group.
PDF Complaint: http://www.scribd.com/doc/147645129/Happybirthday
‘Happy Birthday to You’ Copyright Suit Filed in NY
“More than 120 years after the melody to which the simple lyrics of Happy Birthday to You is set was first published, defendant Warner/Chappell boldly, but wrongfully and unlawfully, insists that it owns the copyright to Happy Birthday to You,” the lawsuit states.
Warner/Chappell, based in Los Angeles, claims exclusive copyright to “Happy Birthday to You,” which Guinness World Records has called the most famous song in the English language. The company, whose artists include Aretha Franklin, Barry Gibb, Rob Zombie, Madonna and Michael Jackson, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.
‘Happy Birthday to You’ belongs to us all, lawsuit says
Warner/Chappell has collected at least $2 million annually in licensing fees for the song, according to the lawsuit.
The song was first published in 1893 as “Good Morning to All,” and was written by sisters Patty and Mildred Hill, according to the lawsuit. The public began singing the words to “Happy Birthday to You” soon after.
“Happy Birthday to You”, also known more simply as “Happy Birthday”, is a song that is traditionally sung to celebrate the anniversary of a person’s birth. According to the 1998 Guinness Book of World Records, “Happy Birthday to You” is the most recognized song in the English language, followed by “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow”. The song’s base lyrics have been translated into at least 18 languages., p. 17 The melody of “Happy Birthday to You” comes from the song “Good Morning to All”, which was written and composed by American siblings Patty Hill and Mildred J. Hill in 1893. Patty was a kindergarten principal in Louisville, Kentucky, developing various teaching methods at what is now the Little Loomhouse; Mildred was a pianist and composer., p. 7 The sisters created “Good Morning to All” as a song that young children would find easy to sing., p. 14