'Happy Birthday' suit settled
LOS ANGELES — A settlement has been reached in a lawsuit over whether “Happy Birthday to You” — one of the best-known and beloved songs in the world — is owned by a music publisher who earned millions by enforcing its copyright.
U.S. District Judge George H. King ruled in September that Warner/Chappell Music Inc. didn't own the lyrics to the song, only some musical arrangements — and thus the company had no right to charge for its use.
A trial set to begin next week in Los Angeles finally could have decreed whether the lyrics sung to generations of birthday boys and girls around the globe really is in the public domain.
Also to be decided at trial was whether Warner/Chappell would have to return any of the licensing fees — estimated at up to $2 million a year — that were collected for use of the song in movies, television shows and other commercial ventures.
But on Tuesday, King vacated the trial, saying all parties in the case had agreed to settle.
He and other lawyers declined to provide details of the settlement, which is awaiting the judge's approval.