It is a song that is probably the most performed out of any other tune in America, but was rarely heard on television or in movies because of copyright claims. Yet countless families across Nevada and every other state would sing it to each other every day. A recent ruling by a U.S. district judge has sent the Happy Birthday song into the public domain.
According to CBS News, the company that previously owned the Happy Birthday song and charged a royalty to anyone who wanted to use the song in a commercial recording, video or movie, recently agreed to repay $14 million in accumulated licensing fees to numerous artists and entities. The song was originally created in 1893, and had passed through ownership by numerous music companies throughout the decades. Now, Warner/Chappell music must relinquish ownership of the iconic song.
Age is, in fact, one of the main reasons that songs, poems, novels and other types of intellectual property pass into the public domain. What exactly is the public domain? Stanford University Libraries defines this as material that does not fall under intellectual property laws. The public is allowed to use these works without needing permission or to pay a licensing fee. Anything that was published in the United States before 1923 now belongs to the public domain. Other reasons for work going into the public domain include the owner deliberately dedicating the work free for public use; the owner not following renewal rules; and copyright law not covering the specific type of work.
The news of the Happy Birthday song now being free to use in film and recordings is certain to be happy news for many. It is permissible for those who own intellectual property to pursue legal action against those who unlawfully infringe upon the works.