HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO US: Federal Judge Rules that “Happy Birthday” Is Free From Copyright.
Today’s opinion (read here) rejects Warner’s argument that a copyright entitles them to a presumption of validity with the judge noting that it isn’t particularly clear whether the registration included the lyrics. Furthermore, the ruling establishes that rights never properly transferred.
“Defendants ask us to find that the Hill sisters eventually gave Summy Co. the rights in the lyrics to exploit and protect, but this assertion has no support in the record. The Hill sisters gave Summy Co. the rights to the melody, and the rights to piano arrangements based on the melody, but never any rights to the lyrics.”
It looks like there’s going to be a number of lawsuits from people trying to claw back some of that royalty money.