A judge has ruled that Warner/Chappell’s copyright to Happy Birthday’s lyrics is invalid.
According to U.S. District Judge George H. King, Warner/Chappell never obtained the copyrights to the lyrics for happy Birthday. He states that the copyrights given to Summy Co. by the Hill sisters, who authored the song, only included its tune, not its lyrics. Warner/Chappell is the successors-in-interest to Summy Co., reports Entertainment Weekly.
Warner/Chappell said that it’s looking into the judge’s claims and seeing what its options are. If the lyrics for happy Birthday aren’t copyrighted, then the song will likely start showing up in more movies, Entertainment Weekly notes.
With no one holding the copyrights to Happy Birthday, it will fall into the public domain. This means that anyone will be able to use the song for free. It’s estimated that Warner/Chappell has collected $2 million a year in royalties from the song, reports Variety.