Happy Birthday Song Public Domain? Maybe.

Marilyn Monroe Sings Happy Birthday Song
Marilyn Monroe singing Happy Birthday to President Kennedy in 1962 Photo: REX

   
Is the Happy Birthday Song public domain?

That’s what a documentary film company claims in their lawsuit against Warner/Chappell Music, Inc. Law professor Robert Brauneis has thoroughly researched the song’s history and concludes that “It is almost certainly no longer under copyright.” The melody of “Happy Birthday to You” comes from the song “Good Morning to All.”

The lyrics are:

Good morning to you,
Good morning to you,
Good morning, dear children.
Good morning to all.

People began singing it at birthday parties and the lyrics changed to Happy Birthday To You. Documentary producer Jennifer Nelson and her company Good Morning to You Productions paid Warner/Chappell $1,500 to use the song in a documentary. She claimed the song was in the public domain and filed a class-action lawsuit in 2013 for Warner/Chappell to reimburse her money and to win reimbursement for previous music synch licenses which would be millions of dollars.

The 120 year old song is the most recognized song in the English language. One of the most famous performances was by Marilyn Monroe when she sang it to President John F. Kennedy in May 1962. The song has appeared in a wide variety of TV shows, amusement parks and films ranging from Disney to Star Trek. A common rumor is that Beatle Paul McCartney owns the publishing rights to “Happy Birthday to You,” but that false.

When you hear the song in public performances, there has almost always been a licence payment. Restaurants used to routinely sing the song to patrons to celebrate their birthdays, but licence fees forced the restaurants to change to another song. You can still sing the song at private parties, but if it’s in a restaurant of other commercial establishment or in a film, be prepared to pay.

The lawsuit has been going on for two years and is expected to end soon.

Keep Reading...

Panasonic AJ-PX270

Panasonic Camcorder AJ-PX270

Panasonic’s handheld AJ-PX270 camcorder records 10-bit, 4:2:2 video using a new codec based on its AVC-Ultra recording format. The new camcorder has 1/3-inch 3MOS sensors and a 22x optical zoom lens with separate zoom, focus and iris rings. Video recording is to microP2 cards (list prices: 32GB microP2 card: $250, 64GB microP2 card: $380). The […]

Read More
ChromeCast brings YouTube videos to your TV.

Chromecast – Internet Video and Music in Your Living Room

Google's new tiny digital video Internet receiver is called

Read More
How to Get a Grant For A Documentary

How to Get A Grant for A Documentary

Learning how to get a grant for a documentary is one of the first skills a documentary producer must learn.

Read More
NTSB says drones subject to FAA

NTSB says Drone Flights Subject to FAA Regulations

NTSB says drone flights are subject to FAA regulations. Disappoints aerial videographers who fly quadcopters and fixed wing model aircraft.

Read More




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  • Forbes Magazine calls VideoUniversity one of the best business-to-business sites for digital video production.
  • WINNER
    Videography Magazine's
    "Website of the Month" Award
  • WINNER
    PC Magazine Online "Best Desktop Video Site" Award
  • WINNER
    CyberFilm School's "FOUR STAR" Award