Copyright and the World's Most Popular Song


In 2009, I published the above-titled article about the history of the song "Happy Birthday to You" in the Journal of the Copyright Society of the U.S.A. (56 J. Copyright Soc. U.S.A. 335 (2009)). A slightly earlier draft is available on SSRN. I collected a large number of documents from various archives while doing research for the article. They were originally made available on part of the GW Law website, but support for those faculty pages was discontinued, so I have moved the archive here. An outline of the contents, with internal links to each of the subject headings, is followed by the table of contents with links to the document files.

This article ended up inspiring a lawsuit, which has its own story, and which produced further documents. A brief outline of that story, and a few of the further documents, are provided on a separate addenda and errata page.


I. Appendices

II. Documents (and a few sound recordings)

A. Inter Partes Litigation
1. Jessica Hill v. Sam H. Harris, et al., Equity No. 78-350 (S.D.N.Y., complaint filed August 14, 1934)
2. Jessica Hill v. Federal Broadcasting Corporation, et al., Equity No. 79-312 (S.D.N.Y., complaint filed January 21, 1935)
3. The Hill Foundation, Inc. v. Clayton F. Summy Co., Civil No. 19-377 (S.D.N.Y., complaint filed October 15, 1942)
4. The Hill Foundation, Inc. v. Postal Telegraph-Cable Company, Civil No. 20-439 (S.D.N.Y., complaint filed March 2, 1943)
5. Elizabeth Newman v. Clayton F. Summy Co., Civil No. 16-124 (S.D.N.Y., removed from state court October 18, 1941) (This case does not concern "Good Morning to All" or "Happy Birthday to You," but reveals some facts about the Clayton F. Summy Company.)
B. Wills, Trusts, and Probate Matters
1. Mary Downing Hill
2. William Wallace Hill
3. Patty Smith Hill
4. Jessica Mateer Hill
  Income Information -- Hill Trust
  Income Information -- Hill Foundation, Inc.
  Statements of Issues
5. Archibald Alexander Hill
C. Copyright Office Documents
1. Registrations
  "Song Stories for the Kindergarten" - original edition
  "Happy Birthday" - E pub. 45655
  "Happy Birthday" - E pub. 46661
  "Happy Birthday" - E pub. 47439
  "Happy Birthday" - E pub. 47440
  "Happy Birthday To You" - E pub. 51988
  "Happy Birthday To You" - E pub. 51990
2. Recorded Assignments and Licenses
D. Musical Scores and Sound Recordings
Alleged Predecessors to "Good Morning to All"
Music by Mildred J. Hill, in the collection of the Ekstrom Library, University of Louisville, originally donated to the Louisville Free Public Library by Miss A.E. Booth:
Pre-1935 Published Versions of "Happy Birthday to You"
Post-1934 Published Versions of "Happy Birthday to You" (these PDF scans omit the actual scores, which include arrangements that are almost certainly still under copyright)
Mildred Hill's Transcriptions of "Negro Hymns" (now in the collection of the University of Oregon; very large file sizes of about 45 MB)
E. Pre-1935 References to the HBTY Lyrics in Conjunction with the GMTA melody
F. Other Documents
Association for Childhood Education International IRS Form 990s
G. Photographs