LOS ANGELES — The music publishing company that has been collecting royalties on the song “Happy Birthday To You” for years does not hold a valid copyright on the lyrics to the tune that is one of the mostly widely sung in the world, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge George H. King determined the song’s original copyright, obtained by the Clayton F. Summy Co. from the song’s writers, only covered the tune’s musical arrangement and not the lyrics.

King’s decision comes in a lawsuit filed two years ago by Good Morning To You Productions Corp., which is working on a documentary film tentatively titled “Happy Birthday.” The company challenged the copyright now held by Warner/Chappell Music Inc., arguing that the song should be “dedicated to public use and in the public domain.” Read more…

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You shouldn’t have to pay up to sing ‘Happy Birthday,’ judge rules