United States Federal Courthouse Los Angeles. Photo by John Schreiber.
United States Federal Courthouse Los Angeles. Photo by John Schreiber.

A Los Angeles federal judge could rule next month on a lawsuit that questions whether “Happy Birthday” — billed as the most recognized song in the English language — is legally owned by a music publisher or is in the public domain.

According to the 2013 lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles by musician Rupa Marya and filmmaker Robert Siegel, the song penned in the late 19th century was never properly copyrighted and belongs in the public domain.

The plaintiffs further argue that Warner/Chappell Music should return millions of dollars collected in license fees over the years.

Los Angeles-based Warner/Chappell — which acquired the company that previously claimed ownership of the song — argues that the tune was given legal copyright protection in 1935 and the publisher has the right to collect fees on the song.

Both sides have filed motions for a pretrial judgment, and U.S. District Judge George H. King scheduled a Jan. 26 hearing.

City News Service

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