Happy Birthday

Friday, March 08, 2013


"Happy Birthday to You" is one of the most popular songs in the English language. It is also copyrighted. On the Media producer PJ Vogt investigates the long, surprising, and contentious history of the argument over just who owns the rights to the song.

(Two bonuses for this story, if you're interested. We got our fake Happy Birthday songs from the Free Music Archive, they've got many more here. And they ran a contest to replace the Happy Birthday song with a free alternative. Hear that alternative here, at 5:15.)


At Twilight (Tulti) - Albert Mangelsdorff 


Robert Brauneis

Produced by:

PJ Vogt

Comments [9]

Hugh Janus from California

I think this is a great article answering a question asked by many, what's the deal with the birthday song? Lots of great points and facts!

Jan. 20 2016 02:36 PM
Bruce M. Foster from NYC


Thus did someone put paid to the long-standing claim.

Jul. 28 2014 12:13 PM

In a way I hope there is no easy resolution to this since provides the general public with an easy way if understanding how draconian copyright law has become in the United States.

Jun. 13 2013 05:15 PM
Jane F Collen from New York

Since copyright is so easy to obtain now, it is hard to know when you might be trespassing on someone else's Intellectual Property! Thank you for the fun "heads up"!

Apr. 13 2013 10:50 AM
Miscweant from New York City

Chili's restaurants may think they're getting around paying royalties by not singing the classic 'Happy Birthday' song to their customers... but the song they *are* using ("Happy happy birthday/from all of us to you...)belongs to Disney; it's from their movie "The Emperor's New Groove." And if there's one thing you don't want to do, it's tangle with Disney lawyers!

Mar. 21 2013 01:31 PM
Brian Baer from Lansing, MI

Did you pay for the rights to play Happy Birthday at the end of the story or was that fair use?

Mar. 12 2013 09:15 AM

So a song written in 1893 will be copyrighted until 2030? That makes sense. Yay corporations!

Mar. 12 2013 04:17 AM
Walter Dufresne from Brooklyn, NY

"All the Hill sisters cared about was sheet music pirates."

All the Hill sisters cared about was the dominant "pirate" technology for reproducing, distributing, and performing the music they created. All they cared about was reproducing, distributing, and performing the music they created *without* their consent and *without* earning them any revenues. The Hill sisters didn't confine their anti-piracy efforts to some obscure, backwater reproduction technology.

Mar. 10 2013 05:47 PM

I applaud your article. I so wish someone would step up and end the tyranny of the unreasonable Happy Birthday claim and free it for the world!

Mar. 09 2013 06:34 AM

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