September 15, 2015 4:49 pm

Happy Birthday To You Copyright, Required You To Pay When Sing it


Over 122 years since this legendary song has been published and become a common songs which sing in every anniversary occasion, the song Happy Birthday To You still protected by copyright. By Happy Birthday To You copyright, it means that every person who sing this song should pay the royalties. According to the 1998 Guinness World Records, “Happy Birthday to You” is the most recognized song in the English language and has been translated into more than 18 languages. Originally, Happy Birthday To You was written in the late 19th Century by two sisters, Patty Hill and Mildred J. Hill in 1893 who called their version “Good Morning To All.” Patty was a kindergarten principal in Louisville, Kentucky, and she use “Good Morning to All” as a song that young children would find easy to sing.


As the time passed by, The publisher and the rights to the song were eventually purchased by Warner/Chappell for $25m (£16m) in the 1980s. And for this Happy Birthday To You copyright, Warner Music Group allegedly earns $2 million per year. In 2008, the company collected about $5,000 per day for every use in film, television, radio, anywhere open to the public, and for any group where a substantial number of those in attendance are not family or friends of whoever is performing the song.

Recently, a group of artists is challenging Warner/Chappell’s in regards of Happy Birthday To You copyright. The challengers said in July they had found proof that the song belongs in the public domain, making it available for anyone to use, for any purpose, at no cost. However, the company has disputed the evidence by arguing that unless there was “necessary authorization from the copyright owner”, the “Happy Birthday” lyrics and sheet music would still be subject to common law copyright as an unpublished work until Happy Birthday To You copyright expires in the US, in 2030.


The use of the song in a film is rumored to cost as much as $10,000, and this is not the first time for Warner/Chappell ends up in lawsuit. Back in 2013, the publisher billed filmmaker Jennifer Nelson was filed lawsuit for Happy Birthday To You copyright after use the song in her “Happy Birthday” documentary. The lawsuit is asking Warner/Chappell to reimburse the money it has collected in music synch licenses.

Many people believe the 120-year-old song should be in the public domain. However, the manuscript of the song that has been discovered tucked inside a sketchbook that was donated to the University of Louisville half a century ago by James Procell, director of the school’s Dwight Anderson Memorial Music Library, couldn’t prove that this song were published over 120 years ago.

Therefore, in order to avoiding to paying that much cost for Happy Birthday To You copyright, filmmaker have a trick to just included the beginning or the end of the song, played For He’s A Jolly Good Fellow instead, or crafted a completely different birthday song. Even some chains restaurant have written their own birthday songs to avoid paying licensing fees.