Wednesday, December 19, 2018

You Better Watch Out: How to Avoid a Fa-la-la-la-Lawsuit this Holiday Season

Everyone knows that the best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loudly for all to hear. But, before preparing your Christmas music repertoire this season, take a minute to think about who owns the rights to the music and how you are performing it. Unless the song is in the public domain, you may need a license in order to play or perform certain songs.

Unlike any other time of year, the holiday season brings into rotation arrangements of public domain works, cover songs of classics, and updated renditions of favorite holiday tunes. In addition, every year dozens of musicians seek to create the next Christmas classic

When it comes to Christmas music, you’d think many timeless classics must be in the public domain. While this is the case for some, such as “Jingle Bells” and “Silent Night” (while the composition is in the public domain, recent sound recordings of these songs are still protected by copyright), others—like “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” “White Christmas,” and “Little Drummer Boy”—have been around for decades but are still protected.

These songs are in the public domain and are fair game to sing or cover to 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”

Public domain or not, you can still sing or play your favorite holiday songs at a private party or family gathering. Your average family gathering doesn’t rise to the level of a public performance and thus does not violate the public performance right in copyright.

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