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MANHATTAN (CN) - Warner/Chappell Music has "extracted millions of dollars in unlawful licensing fees" for the 120-year-old "Happy Birthday" song, which is in the public domain, Good Morning to You Productions claims in a federal class action.
There is no question that the song is in the public domain; the only question is how Warner/Chappell has bullied people into paying for it, Good Morning to You says in the complaint.
The complaint states: "More than 120 years after the melody to which the simple lyrics of 'Happy Birthday to You' is set was first published, defendant Warner/Chappell boldly, but wrongfully and unlawfully, insists that it owns the copyright to 'Happy Birthday to You,' and with that copyright the exclusive right to authorize the song's reproduction, distribution, and public performances pursuant to federal copyright law. Defendant Warner/Chappell either has silenced those wishing to record or perform 'Happy Birthday to You' or has extracted millions of dollars in unlawful licensing fees from those unwilling or unable to challenge its ownership claims.