The famous birthday song still protected by copyright

The famous birthday song still protected by copyrightFamiliar to all us song “Happy Birthday to You” dates back to 1893 and still protected by copyright.

Warner Music Group allegedly earns $2 million per year from this 19th-century song. Whenever the birthday melody is sung on television or a film, or even in a public performance (including restaurants and possibly senior citizen centers), money is due to the copyright holder.

The use of the song in a film is rumored to cost as much as $10,000. The steep price tag has inspired some filmmakers to look for less expensive alternatives. Don’t be surprised if you see a birthday scene on screen with revelers singing “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow” instead. That song, dating back to 1709, is in the public domain.

Ownership claim of “Happy Birthday to You” is based on a filing for a copyright in 1935 by a company later acquired by Warner/Chappell Music. The new owner paid $25 million in 1988 for that valuable property, and has been collecting licensing fees for more than a quarter-century. But Warner got a big boost with the passage in the USA of the Sonny Bono Copyright Law of 1998.

Under the generous terms of this law, copyrights of corporate creations can last, in some cases, for up to 120 years! And works by an individual creator can stay in copyright until 70 years after the death of the author. In the case of an older work such as “Happy Birthday to You,” copyright expires 95 years after publication. If Warner is able to support its claim of a 1935 publication date, we will be paying for the privilege of singing this melody for another 15 birthdays.

Source: The Daily Beast
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