Have you ever been to a restaurant where the staff sings to patrons when it is their birthday? You probably noticed that they never sing the “Happy Birthday” song that most of us sing when celebrating a friend or family member’s birthday. This is because the “Happy Birthday” song is under copyright: people are allowed to sing it at private gatherings, but a business using the song to entertain customers would need to pay money to the rights-holder.
That may soon change, as a recent lawsuit against the rights-holders has turned up evidence that the song was published as early as 1922. This could potentially invalidate the existing copyright claim for the song, first made in 1935, because if the lyrics were first published in the 1920s, the copyright would have already expired, and the work would be in the public domain.
The copyright on “Happy Birthday” is for the lyrics, which are paired with the melody for “Good Morning to You,” that has already entered the public domain. The copyright nets its holders, Warner/Chappell, approximately $2 million a year.
While our personal injury lawyers at Long & Long do not currently handle copyright law, this is a good example of how careful legal work can turn a case around. The legal staff handling this case had to look through hundreds of documents before finding one songbook, written nearly 100 years ago, that had the song they were looking for. And then they needed the legal expertise to realize what this meant, and how it removed the existing copyright protections for the song.
If you want this level of dedication and understanding on your legal team, then contact the personal injury lawyers at Long & Long by calling (251) 432-2277 today. We serve clients in Mobile, Alabama and the surrounding area.