Copyright litigation. Happy Birthday to sue

All of us who are English-speaking, tone deaf, and melodically-challenged are often called upon to sing this song from our repertoire. As you will know  ‘Happy Birthday to You’ is Guinness World Records’ best known song in the English language, but Warner/Chappell Music have claimed exclusive copyright in the title. This means that when it is played on the radio or sung in a film you have to pay a royalty to the owners.

News broke last week that Good Morning to You productions, is in the process of making a film entitled Happy Birthday. However they are now being threatened with a law suit from Warner for infringment of its copyright. Good morning claim that the lyrics are for ‘public use’ and the tune is in ‘the public domain’.

It is claimed that Warner/Chappell Music have previously earned over £3million from licensing fees but Good Morning to You is now saying their rights were falsely obtained, and have now issued a claim seeking a declaration of ownership.

The lawsuit calls Warner/Chappell’s copyright claims ‘bold’, ‘wrongful’ and ‘unlawful’, and claims that the copyright appears to have expired in 1921.

Watch this space for further news but good news for those who hate birthdays!

This article was written by Stephanie Thomas whilst on work experience from the University of Birmingham.

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