On the Second Day of Christmas CCS Gave to Me…

December 3, 2021

Two Types of Christmas Songs 

Pop Quiz: Is the beloved Christmas carol “The 12 Days of Christmas” public domain or copyrighted? 

Answer: It’s public domain – meaning you can use it without obtaining permission, paying royalties, or crediting the original author. 

The Difference Between Copyrighted and Public Domain

Since we’re talking Christmas carols, one of the most common questions we get is concerning public domain vs. copyrighted music. As mentioned above – you can use public domain songs without obtaining permission, paying royalties, or crediting the original author. However, this does NOT apply to copyrighted arrangements of a song in the public domain. Songs that are copyrighted will require permission, licensing, or exemptions.   

So how do you know the difference? Aren’t most Christmas songs in the public domain? The answer – while there are many songs you absolutely can use freely – “Joy to the World”, “Angels We Have Heard on High”, and “Jingle Bells” (just to name a few); many other Christmas songs, carols, and hymns are copyrighted and require permission.  So make sure you have permission before using songs such as “Do You Hear What I Hear”, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, and “Little Drummer Boy”.

To take out some of the guesswork, CCS created two brief guides, Copyrighted Christmas Songs and Public Domain Christmas Songs. These fact sheets help identify the difference between public domain and copyrighted Christmas songs, provide examples, and explain how performance licenses give you tremendous freedom to play and perform music legally this Christmas. 

We know planning Christmas programs can get a little stressful. But we don’t think choosing your music should be.  If you have any questions, simply e-mail us or give us a call at 877-394-5566.  

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. Follow us on FacebookInstagram, and Youtube. The information contained herein is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice or a substitute for legal counsel. 

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