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.