Newswire: “Happy Birthday” is now in the public domain

Thoughtlessly depriving Aaron Sorkin and numerous podcasters of precious material about the rapacious greed of songwriters Mildred and Patty Hill, a federal judge has ruled that Warner Chappell Music’s copyright on “Happy Birthday” is no longer valid, and that the popular ritual chant is now free for TV stars and teeth-gritted T.G.I.Friday’s employees alike.

Given the legally byzantine hoops that have long-surrounded the 25-note ditty, it seems fitting that Judge George King’s ruling stems not from what might seem like common sense—i.e., that the song is nearly a century old and that everyone involved in writing it is long past caring about either births or days—but from a copyright failure relating to the song’s initial publication. “Because Summy Co. never acquired the rights to the ‘Happy Birthday’ lyrics,” King declared, with no regard for how many semi-interesting birthday party conversations …

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