Who Knew That Singing Happy Birthday In Public Is Actually Illegal?

A birthday isn't a birthday unless your family and friends sing Happy Birthday To You (out of tune) at the top of their lungs.

But did you know that the iconic song isn't actually allowed be sung on TV, in movies or any other type of public performances without paying for it? Mind = blown.

This also includes singing it in restaurants so some venues actually sing their own version of Happy Birthday To You to avoid getting in trouble. Clever stuff.

It's all a bit bizarre really but here's the backstory to make sense of it all...

In the late 19th Century two sisters named Patty and Mildred J. Hill, wrote the music to Happy Birthday To You. Their version was called Good Morning To All but it later evolved into Happy Birthday To You and was copyrighted by the sisters' publisher.

Warner/Chappell who is an American music publishing company and a division of the Warner Music Group, eventually purchased the publisher and the rights to the song for $25m (£16m) in the 1980s.

Credit: Pixabay
Credit: Pixabay

According to the BBC a group of artists have challenged Warner/Chappell's claim to the copyright saying they had found proof that the song belongs in the public domain, meaning anyone can use it at no cost.

They said that a 1922 songbook containing the song predates the song's copyright in 1935. A ruling in the case could put the song in the public domain.

For now, people who want to use Happy Birthday To You in a movie, television episode, advertisement, or any other public performance must pay Warner/Chappell a fee.

Credit: Pixabay
Credit: Pixabay

The company earns about $2m per year from these fees, according to an estimate by George Washington University, Professor Robert Brauneis.

Well who would have thought singing Happy Birthday To You could be so expensive?

Featured Image Credit: Curtsy Gift Studio

Haleema Khokhar

Haleema Khokhar is a Freelance Journalist at PRETTY52. She graduated from University of Central Lancashire in Journalism and has since gained over three years experience working within the communications and marketing industry before going freelance as a Content Writer. Contact her on haleema.khokhar@pretty52.com

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