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'Happy Birthday to You' copyright suit filed in NY

NEW YORK (AP) — A production company making a documentary about the song "Happy Birthday to You" is challenging the copyright to the famous jingle.

Good Morning to You Productions Corp., which is working on a film tentatively titled "Happy Birthday," argues in a lawsuit filed Thursday that the song should be "dedicated to public use and in the public domain." The company is seeking monetary damages and restitution of more than $5 million in licensing fees collected by Warner/Chappell Music Inc. from thousands of people and groups who've paid it licensing fees.

Bing: 'Ghost Rider' lawsuit

"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.

Good Morning to You Productions argues that evidence dating to 1893 helps show the song's copyright expired around 1921. It says four previous copyrights to the melody of the similar-sounding song "Good Morning to All," filed in 1893, 1896, 1899 and 1907, have expired or been forfeited.

The class-action lawsuit says Warner/Chappell claims the exclusive copyright to the song based on piano arrangements published in 1935 but that the copyright applies only to the piano arraignment and not to the melody or lyrics.

The film company filed the lawsuit after having to pay Warner/Chappell a $1,500 licensing fee and sign an agreement to use the song in a scene or face a $150,000 penalty.

Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
87Comments
Jun 17, 2013 9:27PM
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This is for those who want to know how long a copyright last.
http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap3.html

Jun 17, 2013 6:22PM
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Warner/Chappell, I'd like to wish you an unhappy birthday because you're evil!

You stink like a monkey, and you smile like one too.

THHBBBBBPPP!  (* RASPBERRY / BRONX CHEER *)

Jun 17, 2013 3:24PM
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I think a mass of people needs to get together somewhere along of the lines of a record book size. 10,000 people + and sing Happy Birthday and send it in to Warner/Chappell. Who is with me?
Jun 17, 2013 3:02PM
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This is just another stupid incident where the court rules on something they don't have a clue about. Sounds like Larry, Darrell & my other brother Darrell. Anything for a buck.

 

Happy Birthday To You! 

 

Happy Birthday To You!    

 

Happy Birthday Dear Warner and screw you to.

 

 

Jun 17, 2013 11:36AM
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Record labels should NEVER own copyright.....it should stay with the artist until he/she dies, then it should be public domain.  Greedy labels making money off of dead artists' work needs to be stopped.
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