“Happy Birthday to You” is free for all

Have you ever wondered why you hardly ever hear the song “Happy Birthday to You” sung in movies? Or why folks at restaurants who bring out a cake sing a different version of “Happy Birthday to You”? Well, it is because the song had a copyright owned by the American company Warner/Chappell Music. The copyright meant that anyone who used the song in a movie, a play, or in any project that made them money, had to pay Warner/Chappell for the use of the song. However, a judge in the United States recently ruled that the song doesn’t belong to Warner/Chappell and is free for everybody to use.

Two sisters wrote the lyrics and music of a song called “Good Morning To All” for students at their school sometime before 1893. It is unclear who wrote the lyrics of the song “Happy Birthday to You”, but the song was sung in the early 1900s to the tune of “Good Morning To All”. The sisters assigned the rights of their song to a publisher. In 1935, the publisher registered a copyright of the “Happy Birthday to You” song. That copyright was acquired by Warner/Chappell in the 1980s. People who have used the song in any project that made money have been paying Warner/Chappell for the song since then. The company has been collecting about US$2 million per year (that is over US$5,000 per day) for its use. Well, now “Happy Birthday to You” is free for the world to sing.

Here is a video about the song and another with the Minions singing “Happy Birthday to You”.

Did you know?

According to the 1998 Guinness Book of World Records, “Happy Birthday to You” is the most recognized song in the English language.

Image Credits: Patty Hill and Mildred J. Hill / WhiteTimberwolf for the Good Morning to All image, http://images-pictures.org/ for the Happy Birthday image
Sources: http://www.history.com/, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/, http://www.reuters.com/, http://www.npr.org