The Happy Birthday Song Copyright Dispute Continues
November 13, 2015
Back in September, we previously wrote
about the decision by U.S. District Judge George H. King, in which he ruled that the "Happy Birthday" song lyrics are not protected by copyright. It was a huge loss for Warner/Chappell who had been collecting license fees for years and years on the famous song.
Just when we thought the decades long debate might be behind us, along comes the Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI), a charity founded in 1892, which has filed a motion
asking the court to intervene in the copyright debate, arguing that child well-being is on the line. ACEI has indicated that they should be entitled to the song rights now that Warren/Chappell lost in the previous lawsuit.
Over the years ACEI has been receiving one-third of the licensing revenue Warner/Chappell generated from use of the Happy Birthday song. ACEI is the lone shareholder of the Hill Foundation, an organization established by the song’s author Patty Hill, a school teacher, and her sister Jessica to collect revenue from the song royalties, based an agreement made in 1944. In the court document it states that, "These royalty payments represent a substantial portion of the Organization's yearly budget," That amount is an estimated $2 million per year.
ACEI as self-described on their website
“participates in global education coalitions and childhood well-being campaigns that advance policies and drive funding levels for education and other social services, thereby impacting vast numbers of children internationally.” The income from the royalties supports their work which includes grants and awards, hence the reason they are asking the court to think of the children.
To further complicate things, Warren/Chappell has filed a motion
asking for the judge to reconsider the previous ruling against them.
There is no telling how this long-standing copyright dispute will end, and the final decision will be up to Judge King. One thing remains clear, the birthday song battle isn’t over yet, and the lawyers are keeping the candles burning.
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