Dallas copyright and music attorney Tamera H. Bennett was interviewed today by KRLD Radio News Anchor Mitch Carr regarding the Central District of California court ruling on the song "Happy Birthday To You."
A federal judge has ruled a music publisher does NOT hold a valid copyright on the song "Happy Birthday to You." Royalties have been paid for years to use the song in movies and TV shows and such. Tamera Bennett is a copyright attorney in North Texas . . . What does this ruling mean?
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Transcript of Interview By Mitch Carr of Copyright Lawyer Tamera H. Bennett
Mitch Carr -- A federal judge has ruled a music publisher does NOT hold a valid copyright on the song "Happy Birthday to You." Royalties have been paid for years to use the song in movies and TV shows and such. Tamera Bennett is a copyright attorney in North Texas . . . What does this ruling mean?
Tamera Bennett -- So now it means we can sing "Happy Birthday," it can be included in film and TV and there's not going to be a license that would need to be paid to the copyright holder.
Mitch Carr -- Yeah Warner Chappell Music owns it now and it was originally the Clayton Summey Company. But does this mean that YouTube, and as you mentioned TV shows, now and movies too don't have to worry about it?
Tamera Bennett -- That's exactly right. And I mean the decision that the judge came down with was that the lyrics, and again the music has long since been unquestionably in the public domain, that there was no valid copyright assignment was part of the issues that they talked about in the twenties and thirties. That perhaps Summey may never actually owned the lyrics at all. And, it also means it is in the public domain.
Mitch Carr -- Is there any expectation that this will be appealed by Warner Chappell or anybody else?
Tamera Bennett -- I suspect it will be. I think they earn two million a year in fees. I believe that was either part of the opinion or some of the press that's been out. So at 2 million a year I suspect it's worth a fight to appeal the case.
Mitch Carr -- Can I get money back?
Tamera Bennett -- You know that's a great question. Because what about all of the -- even taking it out of the realm of the folks who maybe posted their birthday celebration on YouTube -- but let's put it into the realm of it was used in a movie. And in this case it was used in a documentary -- is what spurred this lawsuit. You know, can those folks come back and get their money back? I don't know how that's logistical going to happen. I suspect anybody who has secured a license and going forward they're going to stop paying. And I think they can unless there's some contractual reason in the contract that they have to keep paying even though copyright has expired.
You know people wonder why when you go into certain restaurants and the servers are going to greet you for your birthday and they don't sing the happy birthday song -- they make up a song to sing to you?
Mitch Carr -- Right
Tamera Bennett -- No more. They'll now be singing it to you.
The clip is used by permission of KRLD-CBS Dallas.
Image CC2.0 By Will Clayton.