The world’s most famous song will soon be free to use.
Music publishing company Warner/Chappell Music has for years claimed that it owns the copyright to “Happy Birthday to You.” That came to a halt this past September when Chief U.S. District Judge George H. King ruled that the copyright was invalid and Warner/Chappell didn’t actually have the right to collect royalties on the song. The dispute regarding the song has nearly come to an end and, according to the Hollywood Reporter, it is expected to become public domain by next month.
Warner/Chappell has owned the copyright since 1988 after buying another music publisher, and it has made as much as $2 million a year from the song (expensive licensing fees often lead to movies and television using alternative songs.) According to the terms of a settlement, the company will reimburse about $14 million it has collected from royalties. The plaintiffs’ attorney, Mark Rifkin, called the settlement a “huge, huge victory for artists and the public around the world.”
The ruling is not yet final, as attorney fees first need to be settled. That’s expected to be done after July 12, at which point the song will officially become public domain.