Publisher to pay $14M in 'Happy Birthday' copyright case

Historic result: Happy Birthday public domain deal agreed

The company had been collecting royalties for years whenever the song was performed in movies, TV shows and other productions.

The settlement, unveiled in federal court in Los Angeles on Monday, would eliminate the music publisher's claimed ownership of the song.

"Because defendants have charged for use of the song, untold thousands of people chose not to use the song in their own performances and artistic works or to perform the song in public", according to the memorandum.

The class-action lawsuit over the universally known celebratory tune began with filmmaker Jennifer Nelson, who was making a documentary about the origins of Happy Birthday to You and was asked to pay a $1,500 licensing fee to use it in her film.

The settlement also includes an order that would declare the song to be in the public domain if it is signed off by U.S. District Judge George H. King next month. Under the deal, Warner/Chappell will give up its claims to the ubiquitous song and reimburse those who paid licensing fees.

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While a spokesperson for Warner/Chappell spokeswoman said: "We are pleased to bring this matter to resolution".

In a settlement filed with courts on Monday, music publisher Warner/Chappell agreed to pay $14m to end the lawsuit challenging its right to Happy Birthday To You - possibly the world's most famous song.

A hearing on the preliminary approval of the settlement is scheduled for March 14 at a downtown Los Angeles courtroom.

The song, which was written by sisters Mildred and Patty Hill, was sold to a Clayton F. Summy in 1893.

The song evolved and eventually the melody was set to the "Happy Birthday" lyrics. But King said that publisher never obtained the rights to the lyrics and so neither did Warner.



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