Warner/Chappell music makes millions of dollars every year from its licensing of "Happy Birthday To You," a song whose origin remains kind of fuzzy no matter how deeply you dig. But maybe not much longer: Good Morning to You Productions, which is currently working on a film about the whole mess, has filed suit against Warner/Chappell, asking them to acknowledge that their supposed copyright on the song is nonsense, and demanding it pay back the millions in royalties it's collected for so long now.
The whole story, along with a transcript of the very thorough lawsuit, is over on Techdirt. But the short version is that there have been multiple incarnations of "Happy Birthday" over the years, with different people claiming ownership of the melody and lyrics. Further complicating matters is that sisters Patty and Mildred Hill, who created the original "Good Morning To All" song that forms its basis, are believed to have simply borrowed from other popular tunes of the day. And, as the lawsuit spells out, whatever copyrights Warner/Chappell—or anyone else—may claims to have, they should have all expired long ago and allowed the song to pass into public domain. If the lawsuit proves successful, no one will ever have to substitute their own, copyright-free versions of "Happy Birthday" again, and we can avoid any more moments like this: