Earlier this year, we posted a blog on the “Happy Birthday” copyright case, which resulted in a $14 million class action settlement and the song heading to the public domain. Recently, the same federal judge awarded the plaintiff’s attorneys $4.6 million in fees — happy birthday to them!
Called one of the most recognizable songs in the English language, filmmaker Jennifer Nelson probably didn’t think twice about using it in her documentary about the song’s very history. When music publisher Warner/Chappell’s claimed rights to the song and demanded $1,500 in royalties for its use, Nelson took them to court.
According to Courthouse News, an “astonished” Nelson filed her class-action lawsuit in 2013, claiming Warner/Chappell “had collected and continued to collect millions of dollars in licensing fees even though authorship and ownership of the song were in dispute.”
When Federal Judge George H. King sided with the plaintiff, he awarded the firms Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz, attorney Randall Newman, Donahue Fitzgerald, Glancy Prongay & Murray, and Hunt Ortmann Palffy Nieves Darling & Mah a third of the $14 million birthday cake, totaling a sweet $4,620,000.