At last, you’ll soon be able to sing “Happy Birthday” in public with gusto without any concern for being sued by music publisher Warner/Chappell for the licensing fee, thanks to a recent settlement.
In 2013, filmmaker Jennifer Nelson filed a lawsuit challenging the company’s alleged copyright of the popular song since 1935 and its demand for royalties. If U.S. District Judge George H. King approves the settlement, the company will have to pay back $14 million in licensing fees. Last fall, the judge found the transfer between the songwriter Patty Hill and Warner/Chappell to be invalid; he also questioned Ms. Hill’s authorship of the song altogether.
Per Nelson’s lawyer, Randall Newman, to Ars Technica,
“It’s a pretty good deal. It’s not one of these settlements where the attorneys get millions of dollars and the class gets a coupon for a free soda. These people are getting real money back. The most important part of the whole case was having the song in the public domain. You’re going to see ‘Happy Birthday’ in movies, in TV, all over the place. It’s a huge victory for artists and an important case in history.”
Newman added that there are a “few other songs” he’s going to work on next. For he’s a jolly good fellow! For he’s a jolly fellow …