Looks like this year we’re going to have a happy birthday, indeed.
U.S. District Judge, George King has approved a settlement that has officially placed the song Happy Birthday to You–one of the most recognizable songs in the English language–into the public domain. Meaning the threat of having the pants sued off of you won’t be looming over your entire party every time you and your friends sing along to it.
If you didn’t already know, the song had been copyrighted by Warner/Chappell Music. Meaning anyone who played or used the song technically owed the company royalties, which they’ve been collecting for years.
But thanks to this ruling, Warner/Chappell Music will now have to pay back $14 million (USD) to those who’ve paid licensing fees to use the song.
For the record, the company says it never attempted to collect royalties from people who would sing the song at birthday parties. They just went after those who would use it for financial gain.
King actually ruled last year that Warner/Chappell Music didn’t own the lyrics to the song; this settlement ultimately made that ruling official.