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Thursday, July 30, 2015

"Happy Birthday" To You?

Filmmakers Fighting "Happy Birthday" Copyright Find Their "Smoking Gun"

A 1927 kids' songbook proves "conclusively the song is in the public domain"

Joe Mullin | July 27, 2015

It's been two years since filmmakers making a documentary about the song "Happy Birthday" filed a lawsuit claiming that the song shouldn't be under copyright. Now, they have filed (PDF) what they say is "proverbial smoking-gun evidence" that should cause the judge to rule in their favor.
The "smoking gun" is a 1927 version of the "Happy Birthday" lyrics, predating Warner/Chappell's 1935 copyright by eight years. That 1927 songbook, along with other versions located through the plaintiffs' investigations, "conclusively prove that any copyright that may have existed for the song itself... expired decades ago."

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From the website
In the late 1940s and early 1950s, the song generated $15,000 to $20,000 per year. Through the 1960s, it made closer to $50,000 annually, and over $75,000 during the 1970s. By the 1990s, the song was generating well over $1 million per year. In the last few years, WMG has pulled in over $2 million a year in royalties. It will continue to do so until the year 2030. (

<Related link: (Who Wrote "Happy Birthday to You" (and Who's Collecting the Millions in Royalties)? July 24, 2012)>

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