A judge recently gave a verdict on the copyright issues surrounding the famous Happy Birthday song. He declared it to be everyone’s property.
It appears to be the case that not a single one of the companies that claimed exclusive rights to the Happy Birthday song were telling the truth. For nearly a century, these various agencies had fought against each other regarding the copyright entitlement to the Happy Birthday song.
A judge in LA recently passed a verdict in favor of the freedom of information act. The song was the common heritage of all lovers of culture and civilization, he said. It did not belong to any one person or agency.
It was quite a bold act. Warner/Chappell were told that they never had any right to charge the public for the song. Warner had made claims since 1988 and before that, the song was the intellectual property of the Birch Tree Group.
George H. King, the decisive judge, unequivocally said that aside from the musical rights, the words and for all purposes all parts of the song were the property of the public. No one had a monopoly of ownership as regards the song.
A concerned attorney spoke of how after 80 years of being in a cage, the Happy Birthday song was finally free for everyone’s entertainment. The whole fake ownership deal was over and it was truly hard to believe that this had happened.
It almost seemed more like a miracle of sorts. A spokesperson for Warner/Chappell told the LATimes that the decision was paid heed to and the agency was going to consider its choices with regard to accepting or challenging the verdict.
The case had been dragging on in court for the past year. It has attracted comparisons to the fight between David and Goliath. Indie movie-makers were up against big corporations which used the creative products of gifted artists that had long since passed away and could not fight for their rights.
Warner had been seeking royalties for the song, but that was then and this is now. The huge profits made out of this scheme have finally come to an end. Stage producers, TV studio heads, film makers and greeting card company corporate bosses all availed the Happy Birthday song and paid generous sums of money to Warner in return.
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The unfair part came when those who were merely employing the song in their daily activities, such as at parties and events, also had to cough up some money. This was a big business boost for the Warner Music Group. Now the song is there for all to avail and playing it won’t put a dent in their wallet. Thus all is well that ends well.