A New York filmmaker is on a mission: To make what's regarded as the world's most often performed song one that can be belted out free of charge. Filmmaker Jennifer Nelson and her company, Good Morning to You Productions, have filed a class-action lawsuit against the publishing branch of Warner Music, which claims ownership of "Happy Birthday to You." She wants the song put in the public domain and Warner/Chappell to return the licensing fees it has earned off it—pegged at about $2 million a year, according her lawyer. Nelson herself paid Warner/Chappell $1,500 to use the song in a planned documentary about the tune, reports the Los Angeles Times.
Tech Dirt applauds the move as a long time coming, writing that "as we've been pointing out for years, the song is almost certainly in the public domain." It outlines a series of issues with the copyright, beginning with the fact that the sisters credited with writing it more than a century ago "appear to have written neither the music nor the lyrics." The complaint reads: "Irrefutable documentary evidence, some dating back to 1893, shows that the copyright to 'Happy Birthday to You,' if there ever was a valid copyright to any part of the song, expired no later than 1921." Click for the full complaint.