Briefcase: Happy Birthday To You

Professor Michael Olivas shares his studies from his NPR show.

Everyone has sung “Happy Birthday To You” at one time or another. But the rights to the song were recently challenged in litigation. Professor Michael Olivas has studied the song for his NPR show, The Law of Rock and Roll

“The music for ‘Happy Birthday To You’ was published in 1893,” Olivas said. “But more than 40 years later, the lyrics were copyrighted. However in a recent, closely-watched and complex trial, a judge determined that the song is now in the public domain because the copyright was not properly renewed.”

Professor Olivas explained that this decision causes many changes.

“Previously, royalties were owed for any uses in films, ringtones, or other public performances like mariachi bands and waiters singing to patrons. It earned over two million dollars every year. But now, the most popular song in the world belongs to all of us.”


Maggie Martin

Maggie Martin

Producer, Houston Matters

Maggie Martin is a producer for Houston Matters, the award-winning public affairs radio program on News 88.7FM. Originally from upstate New York, Maggie started her public radio career at WFUV, Fordham University’s public radio station in New York City. She’s also worked with The Brian Lehrer Show at WNYC, On...

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