Should Happy Birthday song belong to the public?

Posted at 2:08 PM, Feb 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-09 14:08:52-05

A federal judge will soon decide if the "Happy Birthday" song belongs in the public domain.

It might come as a shock that a company can claim rights to one of the most popular songs in the English language.

But Warner/Chappell Music holds the rights to the original melody, which was written in 1893. And, by some estimates, the tune brings in $2 million each year. That would be why you don't hear the song in many movies.

But in 2013, a group of flimmakers sued Warner/Chappell and claimed the song belonged in the public domain and that the publisher shouldn't be allowed to charge for the tune.

The two groups recently reached a settlement. Warner/Chappell will pay out up to $14 million to those who paid to license the song, and a judge will have to decide if it belongs in the public domain.

This video includes an image from Getty Images, Will Clayton / CC BY 2.0 and Tela Chhe / CC BY 2.0.