The song millions sing at birthday parties around the world is the subject of a new lawsuit in New York. A filmmaker wants a federal court to declare that “Happy Birthday to You” is in the public domain and therefore not subject to the U.S. copyright law.
Owners of the copyright are being sued by filmmaker Jennifer Nelson, who wants to use the song in a new documentary with the working title of “Happy Birthday.” She says she was asked to pay $1,500 dollars to a publishing firm, Warner/Chapell, which is associated with the Warner Music Group.
The familiar melody was composed more than 100 years ago by sisters Patty and Mildred Hill with the title, “Good Morning to All.” Over the years it evolved into its current version, which is listed by the Guinness Book of Records as the most recognized song in the English language and has been translated into numerous languages.
The suit claims that the song “Happy Birthday to You” is a public adaptation of the original and, therefore, it belongs to the public.”