Federal Court of the State of California has recognized the song «Happy Birthday to You» public property. According to Judge George H. King, none of the companies did not have the rights to this song, and could not collect royalties for its commercial use – including Warner Music, which was considered its owner the past 27 years.
lawsuit against copyright in «Happy Birthday» in June 2013 filed a film company Good Morning to You Productions, is filming a documentary about the composition. For something to use it in the film, directed by Jennifer Nelson paid $ 1.5 thousand. Later, the suit joined by other filmmakers who have paid for the use of Warner songs. The plaintiffs’ attorney called the ruling “an incredible».
«Happy Birthday» is finally free, “- he said after the meeting.
He compared a three-year court battle between David and Goliath, writes the Los Angeles Times, independent filmmakers protested against a huge corporation, receives income from the songs, whose authors are long dead.
The object of copyright song was in 1935; then the application filed by Summy Company, which was first published it. To control the rights to «Happy Birthday» set up a special company, which in 1988 for $ 25 million bought a division of Warner Music – the company Warner / Chappell.
sale of rights on the composition, it is estimated that brings in about $ 2 million a year.
parses the trial judge stated that in 1935 the copyright was protected only by arranging compositions for piano, but not the music itself.
«The authors gave Summy just right melody and arrangement, but never passed it right to the text”, – he said.
The representative of the Warner / Chappell did not comment on the court decision, but promised that the company will carefully examine the full version – and only after that will accept any decision.
In its lawsuit filmmakers relied on studies of American scientist, Professor Robert Braunisa (Robert Brauneis), which a few years ago published a book «Copyright and the World’s Most Popular Song» («Copyright and popular songs of the world”). He studied the history of «Happy Birthday», which is traditionally attributed to the sisters Patti (1868-1946) and Mildred (1859-1916) Hill – they were teachers, came up with a simple, catchy melody to welcome new students, and in 1893 published it in the collection “Songs for kindergarten” called «Good Morning to All».
In the form of birthday greetings song was released only in 1912. Braunis found: the melody of the song is not something original and has the prototype among the compositions of the second half of the XIX century. In addition, in the course of the trial it became clear that the company Summy has issued a special permit for the publication of both versions of the song (and «Good Morning», and «Happy Birthday») for «The Everyday Song Book» («Songbook every day”), which came out in 1927 – and this permission automatically translates the object of copyright in public access.
Translations into public access does not mean the abolition of authorship (which is still owned by the sisters Hill) – but to pay for the use of the composition will not have to.
In Europe, a similar trial excluded: copyright in the song is valid for 70 years after the author’s death and therefore end in 2016, unless, of course, will not be accepted any changes in the law.
This is not the first case kazusny copyright in the United States. In the mid-80s because of the arcade video game «Donkey Kong» sued Universal Studios and Nintendo – but it turned out that no rights to the King Kong filmmakers have not. For example, in 2010 the company IMF in a lawsuit against the manufacturers pornoremeykov tried to prove their rights to Federico Fellini film “La Dolce Vita”. The matter came to nothing: the rights were at Paramount Pictures, in the mid-90s masterpiece of Italian director was transferred to public access.
In Russia, one of the most high-profile cases of copyright for works of deceased creators became trial the early 2010s between the publishers of “Terra” and “Astrel” (a part of AST). It was about science fiction books by Alexander Belyaev, who had to go to public access in 1993, after a 50-year term of protection of rights. But the writer died of starvation in 1942, during the war, which could serve as a basis for the extension of the right – and the parties have tried to understand whether this rule applied in this case.
The lawsuit was remembered exorbitant amount that representatives of the “Terra” demanded that “Astrel” – 7.567 billion rubles. that exceed the value of all assets of the defendant.
For the calculations the plaintiffs have used collector expensive edition – and multiply it by the cost (more than 100 thousand. rub.), the mass circulation (30 thousand. copies) small books “Astrel”. However, in the course of the proceedings the amount decreased repeatedly and the final payment was not as impressive.