It is a song recognized by all of us. From Stevie Wonder’s lively ditty to Marilyn Monroe’s sultry rendition, “Happy Birthday to You” has been sung by or to most of us. But did you know that anyone who performs the song publicly risks a $150,000 fine if they don't agree to pay a fee to Warner/Chappell Music? While the music group wouldn’t come after Aunt Becky as she soars towards those sometimes ear-splitting high notes, they do claim to own the copyright to the 120-year-old, 16-word song that is widely credited with being the best-known piece of music in the English language and do request a fee anytime the song is sung on a television show or in a movie.
Well, don’t blow out those candles just yet. “Happy Birthday to You” is the subject of a new lawsuit against the publishing arm of Warner Music Group. Last week, a complaint was filed in federal court that claims the song has been in the public domain since at least 1921.
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Ernster, the Virtual Library Cat