This past Monday, Warner Music agreed to pay $14 million dollars to end its lawsuit involving the rights to the song “Happy Birthday to You.” Back in 2014, a film producer and two New York music producers filed the class action lawsuit after paying exorbitant licensing fees for use of the popular song. One plaintiff, Jennifer Nelson, was asked to pay $1,500 to use the song in her documentary about the history of “Happy Birthday.” Some plaintiffs allegedly paid up to six-figures to use the song. In September, a federal judge concluded that Warner had not properly acquired rights to “Happy Birthday,” declaring that it was in the public domain. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the recent settlement will allow Warner to avoid a potentially more costly trial. The price of settling is still steep though—last week, Warner attributed an operating loss in its quarterly earnings to the “Happy Birthday” settlement. Warner expected to continue to earn licensing fees on until 2030. The fees would add up to $14 million to $16.5 million dollars, according to the plaintiff’s IP expert. This number appears to be the source of the $14 million settlement figure.
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