” Happy Birthday” is a song that we have all either heard or sung before. However, did you know that the famous “Happy Birthday” song has been a huge copyright issue. For over 80 years, this song has been going through the court system and cooperation’s such as Warner/Chappell Music have been profiting from the “illegal” use of the song. Warner /Chappell Music has profited over $2 million dollars in royalties for the song when it has been used for commercial purposes. It has been argued that the original creators of the song Mildred and Patty Hill has signed over the melody and the piano arrangements to the Warner company. Which left no rights to the lyrics of the song. However, that was not true.
Copyright is a law that protects the artists work and stops other people from obtaining profit or credit for work they did not produce. Usually copyright only covered an artist for fourteen years now they are protected for a lifetime.
In the 1994 documentary ” Hoop Dreams” directed by Steven James he was forced to pay up $5,000 for the use of the ” Happy Birthday” song. In the clip below you would see the short amount of time the song was used for.
” Happy Birthday” was sung between the first .52 seconds and one minute and twenty seconds of the song.
The big question with copyright is what is too much to take from an artist original piece of work?. A lot of the songs we sing on a daily basis and quote for Instagram/Twitter post is that copyright?. It is unbelievable to think that a song that we sing everyday or for a special occasion can cost you so much. It makes you really wonder is it even worth it publish your work for the public with the risk that you may have to fight for the rights of your own work?.