Altogether now, “Happy Birthday to You!”

The popular song, “Happy Birthday To You,” was first copyrighted in 1935 by the Summy Company (“Summy”). Years later, in 1988, Warner/Chappell Music (“Warner”) purchased the company owning the copyright. Warner required that royalties be paid for public performances of the song and claimed that the copyright, which represented an estimated $2M to $5M in royalties annually, did not expire until 2030. Warner wanted to charge Jennifer Nelson, an independent filmmaker, $1500 for using the song in a documentary. She filed suit and,215 on September 22, 2015, in Rupa Marya v. Warner Chappell Music Inc., Case No. CV 13-4460-GHK (S.D. Cal.), federal Judge George H. King ruled that Warner’s copyright to “Happy Birthday to You” was invalid, as the alleged original authors of the song had never asserted a claim for the lyrics, though they did sue for rights to the original melody. As such, Summy never legally obtained the rights to the lyrics from the authors and therefore Warner’s copyright was invalid.