Copyrighted vs. Public Domain Christmas Songs

November 18, 2020

Do you know the difference?

Every year about this time CCS starts to get questions regarding Christmas music. Planning Christmas programs this year is stressful enough, but understanding which Christmas songs are copyrighted and which are public domain doesn’t need to be.  

That’s why we’ve put together two great resources to help you navigate these songs. Our free guides, Copyrighted Christmas Songs and Public Domain Christmas Songs offer explanations along with lists of songs that require permission and those that can be used freely. 

Copyrighted vs. Public Domain 

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 those you can use freely; many Christmas songs, carols, and hymns are copyrighted and owned by secular music publishers. It’s a commonly held misconception that all Christmas music is available for use without permission.   

Want to test your knowledge? Look at the list below and see if you know which songs are in the public domain and which require licensing:   

Angels We Have Heard on High   

Away in a Manger   

Frosty the Snowman   

Deck the Halls   

Hark the Herald Angels Sing   

Feliz Navidad   

Do You Hear What I Hear?   

O Come, O Come Emmanuel   

Jingle Bells   

Santa Claus is Coming to Town   

Silent Night   

First Noel   

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen   

Little Drummer Boy   

Carol of the Bells   

How do you think you did? Download CCS’s Christmas Fact Sheets to find out! 

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 onTwitterFacebookInstagram, 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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