LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A federal judge signed off Monday on a settlement of the copyright case involving “Happy Birthday” – billed as the most recognized song in the English language – and ordered that the ditty be placed in the public domain for use at no charge.
Music publisher Warner/Chappell Music agreed to end its claim of ownership and refund $14 million to end the long-running dispute over royalty rights to the tune. The money will be distributed among those who paid licensing fees to use the song during the previous five decades.
“This is a huge victory for the public, and for the artists who want to use ‘Happy Birthday to You’ in their videos and music,” plaintiffs’ attorney Daniel Schacht said.
“Everyone who has a birthday can celebrate,” he said. “Strong copyright protection is important for artists and content creators, but it must have limits. This landmark ruling recognizes the value of the public domain.”
U.S. District Judge George H. King ruled last year that the song – sung at birthday parties for more than 100 years – was not legally owned by Warner/Chappell, paving the way for the settlement.