‘Happy Birthday’ Fight|Settled at Last


LOS ANGELES (CN) – The legal fight over the song “Happy Birthday to You” has been settled, days before a federal bench trial was to begin.
     On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge George King entered an order stating that the parties had agreed to settle the case. The trial set for Dec. 15 in has been vacated and taken off calendar.
     King ruled in September ruled that music publisher Warner/Chappell Music does not hold a valid copyright interest in the song “Happy Birthday to You,” and that evidence suggested the song has been in the public domain since 1922 .
     Warner/Chappell made immense amounts of money charging licensing fees for the song, even for incidental uses of it in movies or TV.
     In 2013, documentary filmmaker Jennifer Nelson filed a class action complaint through her production company, claiming Warner/Chappell had collected and continued to collect millions of dollars in licensing fees, though authorship and ownership of the song were in dispute.
     Nelson was shocked when Warner/Chappell charged her $1,500 to license the song for a documentary about the song’s history and origins.
     The melody for “Happy Birthday to You” was composed in the late 1800s by school teacher Mildred Hill in Louisville, Ky. The song was a variation on “Good Morning to All,” with lyrics by her sister, Patty Hill.
     Now the legal fight appears to be over.
     “Within ten days hereof, counsel shall file a joint status report setting forth the parties’ proposed steps, and timing of those steps, to effectuate the settlement,” Judge King wrote.

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