“Happy Birthday” Copyright Smoking Gun Unearthed by Law Librarians

Warner/Chappell Music, a subsidiary of Warner Music Group, has long claimed to own the rights to “Happy Birthday to You,” probably the most recognized English language song in the world.  However, new evidence unearthed by librarians at the University of Pittsburgh Law Library calls that claim into question.

According to PittLaw, Warner/Chappell’s claim is based on a 1935 copyright registration.  But now an earlier 1922 publication of the song has come to light.

The fourth edition of The Everyday Song Book was published in 1922 and contains lyrics for “Happy Birthday To You” without any copyright notice, which predates Warner/Chappell’s 1935 copyright registration. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the plaintiffs discovered evidence of the book, a blurry photo in Warner/Chappell’s own files, which they were given access to only three weeks ago.
Now, with the help of the Pitt Law Librarians who located an original copy of the work in their collection and provided a clean scan as evidence, the song may become free to the public.  Read more at Above the Law.
Happy Birthday song image