Shook Seattle Managing Partner Bart Eppenauer has joined Law360's Voices of the Bar panel in discussing a California federal court's ruling that the Warner/Chappell Music Inc. does not own a valid copyright on "Happy Birthday To You." The case shows how difficult establishing the facts of a copyright claim can be, Eppenauer says, noting that although the court only concluded that the music company did not have a valid claim to the popular song, it is unlikely another entity will be able to prove ownership of the song so many decades later.
"More broadly, property rights systems function best when ownership and scope of the property rights are clear and information about the rights is easily accessible," Eppenauer opines. "Copyright systems today are not sufficient to produce that information reliably since formalities requirements that encourage information production are prohibited by international treaties. Until copyright law develops better approaches to produce reliable copyright information that has legal significance, we will continue to have cases and circumstances like the 'Happy Birthday' situation."