You know how nobody ever sings “Happy Birthday” in movies or on TV? How they usually have some incredibly odd fake birthday song that just sounds WRONG? That’s because the copyright to use it has always been so prohibitively expensive, that FOR DECADES writers had to create fake happy birthday songs instead. FINALLY, after 80 years, though, the copyright on the “Happy Birthday” song has finally been reversed, freeing up its commercial use.
The Daily What is reporting that the legal battle itself took years, but a federal judge ruled Sept. 22 that the song’s music and most probably the lyrics, existed before Patty Smith Hill and Mildred J. Hill claimed ownership.
The Los Angeles Times has more information:
In a stunning reversal of decades of copyright claims, the judge ruled that Warner/Chappell never had the right to charge for the use of the “Happy Birthday To You” song. Warner had been enforcing a copyright since 1988, when it bought Birch Tree Group, the successor to Clayton F. Summy Co., which claimed the original disputed copyright.
Judge George H. King ruled that a copyright filed by the Summy Co. in 1935 granted only the rights to specific piano arrangements of the music, not the actual song.
‘Happy Birthday’ is finally free after 80 years,” said Randall Newman, an attorney for the plaintiffs in the suit, which included a group of filmmakers who are producing a documentary about the song. “Finally, the charade is over. It’s unbelievable.”
Listen to some incredibly awkward “Happy Birthday” alternatives that have been used in the past, below.