The Fight to Liberate the “Happy Birthday” Song, Told in a Short Documentary

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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