Monday, February 29, 2016

Birthdays are happier now

Have you ever wondered why waiters don't sing the original “Happy Birthday to You” when you dine out on that special day? It's because the restaurant would have had to pay a royalty to Warner/Chappell Music, a subsidiary of Warner Music Group, who claimed ownership of the song. Yep, until just a week ago or so, Warner collected approximately $2 million per year licensing the use of that song.

Not any more.

Last September, law librarians at the University of Pittsburgh found an old manuscript of the song, older than anyone had realized. Older than the 1935 claim of Warner Music Group. Which made the song old enough to belong in the public domain.

A federal judge in California is now set to approve a settlement between class action plaintiffs (folks who claim to have paid royalties to use the song), and Warner. The $14 million settlement includes (1) payments to the plaintiffs “and all others similarly situated”, (2) a judicial declaration stating the song belongs in the public domain, and (3) a payment to the plaintiffs' attorneys of $4.62 million.

I definitely practice in the wrong area of law..................

But now when you sing “Happy Birthday to You” in that restaurant, instead of another, not-as-much-fun song, you can thank the librarians at the University of Pittsburgh, and my colleagues who chose a more lucrative legal career path than I did.

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