A federal judge has ruled that a music publishing giant has no right to collect royalties for “Happy Birthday to You”.
The sisters used “Good Morning to All” as an easy song for children to sing. The said book reportedly did not credit anyone with regards to the lyrics. That copyright-acquired by Warner/Chappell in its purchase of Summy’s successor, Birchtree Ltd., in 1988-is at the center of a landmark trial that has been unfolding in the Los Angeles courts since 2013.
That turns out to be an indefensible claim, with little hard evidence behind it. “Defendants ask us to find that the Hill sisters eventually gave Summy Co. the rights in the lyrics to exploit and protect, but this assertion has no support in the record”, King opined.
Marya, singer of the band Rupa & The April Fishes, recalls how her legal troubles began when the audience sang her “Happy Birthday” at a San Francisco gig back in 2013.
The lawsuit was filed against Warner by two filmmakers making a documentary about the song’s origins. Hartman can actually command a rousing recitation of the traditional birthday song, performed on Christmas Day and personally addressed to Jesus, before reminding his troops of who it is that now claims possession of their recently recruited behinds.
But the ruling doesn’t mean the happy birthday blackout is over just yet. “And that’s a pretty good question”.
“Happy Birthday to you” is a celebration staple, unless you’re in the entertainment industry. However, Judge George King ruled that the original copyright had only been granted for specific arrangements of the music, and not for the actual song itself.
“The summary judgment record shows that there are triable issues of fact as to whether Patty wrote the Happy Birthday lyrics in the late Nineteenth Century and whether Mildred may have shared an interest in them as a co-author”. Some are calling for Warner/Chappell to pay back the money they’ve taken. In the wake of the verdict, a spokesman for Warner/Chappell told the press that the company was “looking at the court’s lengthy opinion and considering our options”.
I love the history of the Hill Sisters and the … song, good bourbon, Hunter S. Thompson, Johnny Depp and the Kentucky Derby.