Happy Birthday, The Coda

Details of the settlement reached in the case concerning ownership of the song “Happy Birthday To You” were released today with a filing in United States District Court. In the settlement, originally announced in December but which the court has only now been asked to approve, Warner/Chappell agreed to pay $14 million to licensors as well as $4.6 million in legal fees for the other parties in the suit.

The case centered on whether Warner/Chappell ever actually owned the lyrics to the song it acquired during its purchase of Clayton F. Summy Co., in 1988. Since then, it’s been estimated that the song generated about $2 million in yearly income through licensing.

“Happy Birthday To You” was written by Patty Smith Hill and her sister Mildred J. Hill in 1893 and will now officially become public domain, free for anyone to use without further permission.

Not a Happy Birthday for Warner/Chappell

In a decision that undoes years of licensing agreements, the United States District Court in California reached a decision on Tuesday in the case Rupa Marya, et. al. v. Warner/ Chappell Music, Inc., ruling that the classic song “Happy Birthday To You” is not owned by publisher Warner/Chappell.