You may have followed the story in the news lately–the song, “Happy Birthday to You,” has officially entered the public domain, thanks to a court battle fought by the documentary filmmaker Jennifer Nelson. The battle started years ago when Nelson was billed $1,500 to use “Happy Birthday to You” in a documentary–the price of licensing a song still under copyright. Wait, what? Flabbergasted that “the world’s most popular song,” which could be traced back to 1893, could still be under copyright, Nelson filed a class action suit against Warner/Chappell Music, the group claiming rights to “Happy Birthday.” And won.
In this new short documentary from The Guardian, Nelson tells the story of the song and her four-year struggle to give “Happy Birthday” back to the world. With a little luck, “This Land is Your Land,” will be next.
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