Christmas Songs in the Public Domain: Do You Need a License to Sing?
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:
“Deck the Halls”
“Away in A Manger”
“Joy to the World”
“Jolly Old St. Nicholas”
“O Holy 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)
About the Firm:
Klemchuk LLP is a litigation, intellectual property, transactional, and international business law firm dedicated to protecting innovation. The firm provides tailored legal solutions to industries including software, technology, retail, real estate, consumer goods, ecommerce, telecommunications, restaurant, energy, media, and professional services. The firm focuses on serving mid-market companies seeking long-term, value-added relationships with a law firm. Learn more about experiencing law practiced differently and our local counsel practice.
The firm publishes Intellectual Property Trends (latest developments in IP law), Conversations with Innovators (interviews with thought leaders), Leaders in Law (insights from law leaders), Culture Counts (thoughts on law firm culture and business), and Legal Insights (in-depth analysis of IP, litigation, and transactional law).