Update on the Happy Birthday Case
Back in October, we discussed some of the implications of the Happy Birthday lawsuit, and now it appears that we have finally reached a coda for the two-year legal battle. On December 9, 2015, a settlement was reached in the lawsuit against Warner/Chappell Music over the copyright of the song Happy Birthday, and, two months later, those terms have finally become public.
The Settlement Terms
As part of the settlement terms, Warner/Chappell will pay $14 million. One third of the settlement fund will go to the plaintiff’s attorney to pay for his fees. The rest will be divided among qualifying class action members. Furthermore, the settlement stipulates that a judge will declare the song to be in the public domain. Finally, Warner/Chappell agrees not to appeal the case any further.
A lump-sum payment (and agreement to not reopen the case) is typical for a settlement, but a judge’s declaration is unique. In part, Warner/Chappell agreed to these terms to avoid a trial that would parse out how much it owed thousands of people, films, plays and television programs that it had previously charged for using the song.
Be sure to remind your waiters of this historic settlement the next time you want to embarrass a sibling at his or her birthday dinner.