LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The song “Happy Birthday To You” can be used by anyone in any way without having to pay licensing fees, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.
Rupa Marya, one of four plaintiffs in the lawsuit, talked to CBS2 from her home in San Francisco.
Marya is a musician who says she’s ecstatic about the ruling.
“When the clock struck midnight, the crowd starting singing me ‘Happy Birthday,’ ” recalls Marya of the day back in 2013 when the audience surprised her with the song while she and her band Rupa & The April Fishes played in their town of San Francisco.
But, she says, she got another surprise that year when her lawyer told her she needed to pay to put that Happy Birthday moment on her album.
“It seems ridiculous and it seemed like something that we should try to fight for,” she said.
So she did fight and has been for the last two years.
On Tuesday, a judge ruled that anyone using the beloved song — from celebrities to kids — shouldn’t have to pay to sing it.
“I just got off an airplane from a tour in Europe and my lawyer just called me and he said ‘We won!’ and I screamed in joy,” she said.
“I thought it was great. This is an amazing example how ordinary citizens can take corporations to task for things when they overreach into places they don’t belong,” she said.
The Los Angeles-based Warner/Chappell Music Inc. acquired the company that previously claimed ownership of the song and argues that the song was given legal copyright protection in 1935 allowing its publisher to collect royalties. They’ve reportedly been collecting as much as $2 million per year.
Marya says it’s wrong.
She wants her $450 back and has one other wish: for other artists and creators who paid to use “Happy Birthday” to get their money back too. Her lawyer is trying to turn the case into a class-action lawsuit.
CBS2 reached out to Warner/Chappell for comment but has not immediately heard back. The company has the option of appealing the decision.