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Federal Judge Rules ‘Happy Birthday’ Song in Public Domain

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LOS ANGELES (AP) —

A federal judge has ruled that the music publishing company that has been collecting royalties for the song “Happy Birthday To You” does not hold a valid copyright to the popular tune that is sung worldwide.

U.S. District Judge George H. King ruled Tuesday that the copyright originally filed by the Clayton F. Summy Co. in 1935 granted only the rights to specific arrangements of the tune and not the actual song itself.

In invalidating the copyright, King ruled that Summy never acquired the rights to the song’s lyrics.

Warner/Chappell Music has been enforcing the copyright claim since it bought Summy’s successor, the Birch Tree Group.