'Happy Birthday': Journey To The Public Domain

Law360, New York (May 20, 2016, 11:33 AM EDT) -- For decades, the song "Happy Birthday to You" has been as ubiquitous to birthday celebrations as cake or candles. In fact, the Guinness Book of World Records has cited "Happy Birthday to You" as one of the most recognized songs in the English language. For nearly 30 years, Warner/Chappell Music has claimed to own the exclusive copyright to the iconic song based on certain musical arrangements published in the 1930s. Indeed, until recently Warner/Chappell Music might have expected to continue claiming the exclusive rights to the song for the next 14 years — until 2030 — during which time the song could be expected to earn more than $15 million for the company. With a landmark class action settlement scheduled to be approved next month, however, that will all change. For the first time in over 100 years, the iconic song that has ushered in birthdays of everyone from royalty and presidents to citizens and children alike will, at long last, undisputedly fall in the public domain....

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