Warner to Pay $14 Million Settlement in 'Happy Birthday' Lawsuit
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Finally bringing the fight to an end, Warner Music Group will officially give up its rights to the most recognized song in the English language -- “Happy Birthday to You.”
The payment comes as a result of U.S. District Judge George H. King’s ruling in September stating the company didn’t have a valid copyright since it never appropriately acquired the rights for the song. In an effort to avoid trial in December, lawyers from both sides agreed on a settlement and made “Happy Birthday to You” public domain, according to Hollywood Reporter. However, Warner will not admit to any wrongdoing and does not agree with King’s decision.
Either way, once the settlement is officially approved by a judge in March, the music group won’t be able to collect payments for the song anymore. Previously, the firm earned up to $2 million a year thanks to its ownership of the copyright.
Warner Music Group initially bought the rights for “Happy Birthday to You” in 1988 from creators Patty Smith Hill and her sister Mildred J. Hill. As music teachers, the duo wrote the tune in 1893 and called it “Good Morning All.” Over time, the song morphed into the celebratory ditty and established itself as the traditional tribute that’s so widely known today.Related: 'Smoking Gun' Evidence Could Eradicate Copyright Claims for the World's Most Popular Song