to Musical Trivia Question # 1
Birthday To You"
by Mildred & Patty Hill
everyone in American knows the words and melody to this
song. Yet relatively few know that the song is still under
copyright. And publishing fees are owed to the songwriters
each time the song is played or sung in public.
song was written by Mildred and Patty Hill, two sisters
from Kentucky. The original title was "Good Morning
1924, the song was published under a the new title, "Happy
Birthday," in a songbook. Soon it was regularly heard
on radio and in films as a birthday song.
the mid-1930s, the hummable little ditty was becoming extremely
popular. It was used in a Broadway play and as a Western
Union "singing telegram", and even in an Irving
Berlin musical "As Thousands Cheer."
It's never been clearly determined who wrote the words,
but it's been established that the Hill sisters wrote the
1934 Patty and Mildred's
sister Jessica filed suit to prove that "Happy Birthday
To You" was their melody with different lyrics. The
court agreed and awarded the Hill sisters the copyright,
which meant that whenever the song was used in a movie,
radio program, or public performance, Mildred and Patty
Hill were compensated.
copyright remains in force and under current law the song
will not enter public domain until 2030.
Royalty payments on the song are reportedly around $2-million
dollars annually. They are split between the Hill Foundation
and the publisher, a subsidiary of AOL Time Warner.
you sing this outside the family setting, you'll need to
pay for a performance license that contributes a royalty
to the Hill sisters and their heirs.
some American restaurants have devised alternative birthday
celebration ditties —
are similar to but not quite the same as "Happy Birthday
To You —
so they can avoid paying publishing fees for the song.
details about the story of this song