Common Copyright Christmas Myths Could Be Costly for Churches

November 10, 2015

There is an abundance of copyright myths spinning in church circles, and the Christmas season is not lacking in these false beliefs. One of the most common myths is that ALL Christmas songs, carols or hymns are in the public domain and don’t require licensing or permission. It’s a misconception that could prove costly for churches unless they understand that many Christmas tunes are copyrighted and owned by secular music publishers.

For example, churches often sing, record, stream, print songs like “White Christmas,” “Frosty the Snowman,” “Mary Did You Know,” and don’t realize they need licensing or permission to do so. In addition, most of these secular songs are not included in the song programs of most church blanket licenses. However, they are included in performance licenses like CCS’s PERFORMmusic License and WORSHIPcast License, so that you can legally play more than 19 million songs ONSITE in your facilities and ONLINE on your websites.   

Let’s start with the good news and talk about the songs that are in the public domain and what you can do with them. Surprisingly, there are many traditional songs that are copyrighted and require licensing…click here for a song list that will help you make sure you’re covered.

When it comes to misunderstandings about the Copyright Law, there’s also good bit of confusion regarding Fair Use and the Religious Service exemption. Be sure to sign up for this month’s FREE webinar on “7 Secrets to Understanding Fair Use and the Religious Service Exemption” with Susan Fontaine Godwin on Wednesday, December 2, at 12 noon CST.  

There aren’t many exceptions or exemptions to the U.S. Copyright Law, but churches can really benefit from the religious service exemption in the law (Section 110[3]) if they fully understand it. There is a great deal of confusion and misunderstanding about the Fair Use doctrine of the US Copyright Act. We will also feature attorney Brock Shinen’s information on how the Fair Use doctrine impacts church activities.

About Christian Copyright Solutions: CCS’s quest is to help churches and Christian ministries “do music right.”  CCS is an expert on church music copyrights and our primary focus is providing licensing and clear educational resources to churches, as well as representation, administration and advocacy for copyright owners. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook. The information contained herein is for informational purposes only, and is not legal advice or a substitute for legal counsel.

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