Copyright and Christmas Songs

Love them or loathe them, Christmas songs form an essential part of the festive season.

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Copyright and Christmas Songs

Love them or loathe them, Christmas songs form an essential part of the festive season. Many of the older classics (“Jingle Bells” or “Silent Night” for example) can be played freely by anyone looking to spread a bit of Christmas cheer. However, more recent creations may be covered by copyright law, and the owner may have rights not just in the melody but also in the lyrics and sound recording. Playing these songs in public without an appropriate licence could lead to an unwanted present in the form of a claim for intellectual property infringement.

In the UK, copyright in the musical and written aspects of a song will last for the life of the creator, plus 70 years. If the song was created jointly, it will last for 70 years after the death of the last surviving creator. Many of the most famous Christmas carols are well over 100 years old, and so have now entered the public domain (though it is worth noting that a remake of an old classic in a new format may be protected). Some of the more recent Christmas pop songs are however still subject to copyright law and are among the highest-grossing tracks of all time. If you want to play these songs in public (including on your website) or use them for the purpose of marketing to customers, you may need to obtain a licence from the central licensing authority.

If you’re not sure what music you can and can’t use commercially, or would like more general advice on copyright, trademarks or other intellectual property rights, please contact Tom Rook at tom.rook@keebles.com or call Tom on 0114 2527183.

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