′Sing it for free′ - the song ′Happy Birthday′ enters the public domain | News | DW | 28.06.2016
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'Sing it for free' - the song 'Happy Birthday' enters the public domain

The song "Happy Birthday" has joined the public domain, ending a long-running suit over its copyright. Music publishers earned as much as $2 million per year in licensing commercial use of the popular tune.

One of the most recognizable songs in the English language is now available to sing - free of charge.

A US federal judge in Los Angeles signed off on a settlement agreement on Monday evening, ending a long-running legal battle challenging music publisher Warner/Chappell Music's claim to the song's copyright.

"Sing it loud, sing it proud, and sing it for free," said a statement from the law firm which represented plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit.

"This is a huge victory for the public and for the artists who want to use 'Happy Birthday to you' in their videos and music,'" attorney Daniel Schacht said.

Manuskript Happy Birthday Original Good Morning To You

The song was penned in 1893 by Mildred Hill and her schoolteacher sister Patty

The case against Warner/Chappell Music was filed in 2013 after a group of filmmakers making a low-budget documentary on the birthday song's history were charged $1,500 (1,355 euros) for its use.

The documentary filmmakers joined with other artists who paid to use the song to bring their complaint before a California court.

In September 2015, Los Angeles judge George King ruled that the song did not belong to Warner/Chappell.

The music publisher agreed to pay $14 million (12.6 million euros) in a settlement which ended its copyright claim along with efforts to collect royalties.

Warner/Chappell Music, which is the global publishing arm of Warner Music, earned as much as $2 million per year by licensing commercial use of the famous tune. Although the song could be sung in private without overstepping the copyright claims, the company charged a fee for the song's use by restaurants, filmmakers and even electronic greeting cards.

US musician Mildred Hill composed the song in 1893 with her sister Patty Hill, a kindergarten teacher in the state of Kentucky. Schoolchildren would sing the tune, which was originally titled "Good Morning to You." The birthday lyrics were added later.

rs/tj (AFP, dpa)

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