A judge has approved a settlement that will put "Happy Birthday to You" in the public domain.

celebrating a birthday (YanLev, ThinkStock)

U.S. District Judge George King approved the agreement Monday. It ends the ownership claims of Warner/Chappell Music, the music publishing company that has been collecting royalties on the song for years.

The company has agreed to pay back $14 million to those who have paid licensing fees to use the song.

Last year, King ruled that the company didn't own the lyrics to the ditty, one of the best-known and most beloved songs in the world. He said the company has no right to charge for the song's use.

Warner/Chappell has said it didn't try to collect royalties from just anyone singing the song but those who use it in a commercial enterprise.

(Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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