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.
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)