Everyone knows that the fastest way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear, right? Maybe not. Before you go blasting that Christmas music this season, take a minute to think about who owns the rights to the music and how you are performing. Unless the song is in the public domain, you may actually need a license in order to play or perform that song, so be careful!

A public performance is defined as a performance that occurs either in a public place where people gather (other than a small circle of a family or social acquaintances). A public performance is transmitted to the public, for example, radio or TV broadcasts, and via the Internet. A license would also be required when music is used as part of training seminars, conventions, or other commercial or business presentations, with the exception of use by non-profits. So if you’re doing caroling in the mall or another public venue, take a look at the lists below to determine whether you need to purchase a license in advance.

It probably comes as no surprise that some of the most iconic songs are in the public domain because they have been around for hundreds of years. For example, the following songs are fair game to sing at the top of your lungs and get yourself in the Christmas spirit:

  • “Jingle Bells”
  • “Deck the Halls”
  • “Away in A Manger”
  • “Joy to the World”
  • “Jolly Old St. Nicholas”
  • “O Holy Night”
  • “Silent Night”
  • “Up on the Housetop”
  • “What Child is This”

But don’t belt out these classics without securing a license in advance, as they are still protected by copyright:

  • “All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth” (Donald Yetter Gardner)
  • “Do You Hear What I Hear?” (Noel Regney, Gloria Shayne Baker)
  • “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” (Fred Coots, Haven Gillespie)
  • “A Holly Jolly Christmas” (Johnny Marks)
  • “Carol Of The Bells” (Peter J. Wilhousky, Mykola Leontovich, lyrics only)

Happy holidays!

Related articles:
Happy Holidays: Funny Christmas Trademarks
Christmas Patents of 2016 – Market Exclusivity and Christmas Decor
A Counterfeit Christmas: How to Protect Your Business and Your Wallet from Counterfeiters

For more information on this topic, please visit our Trademark Protection service page, which is part of our Trademark Practice.

Klemchuk LLP is an Intellectual Property (IP), Technology, Internet, and Business law firm located in Dallas, TX.  The firm offers comprehensive legal services including litigation and enforcement of all forms of IP as well as registration and licensing of patents, trademarks, trade dress, and copyrights.  The firm also provides a wide range of technology, Internet, e-commerce, and business services including business planning, formation, and financing, mergers and acquisitions, business litigation, data privacy, and domain name dispute resolution.  Additional information about the trademark firm and its trademark attorneys may be found at www.klemchuk.com.

Klemchuk LLP hosts Culture Counts, a blog devoted to the discussion of law firm culture and corporate core values with frequent topics about positive work environment, conscious capitalism, entrepreneurial management, positive workplace culture, workplace productivity, and corporate core values.


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