Before you grab your warmest mittens, most spirited bells and sheet music, be sure to carefully choose this seasons melodies. When the time comes for figgy pudding, candy canes and a Santa Clause on every street corner, this Christmas “the best way to spread Christmas Cheer [by] singing loud for all to hear” (Elf, 2003) could get you into trouble.
Ever wonder why restaurants like Applebees or Fridays have their own birthday melodies? Well, it is not because they are bursting from the seams with creativity. Restaurants create their own birthday songs avoid paying to use the song “Happy Birthday.” Happy Birthday is a copyrighted song, which means any public forum where it is sung infringes on copyright laws if you were not given the right to use that content.
Similar to the way “Happy Birthday” is copyrighted, certain Christmas songs also fall under this law. This is not the case for all songs, many in fact are public domain. This article Which popular Christmas songs are still protected by copyright? written by Chris Robley was posted by Shannon Morgan (@shannoncara) on Twitter, to give us some insight on the legalities of singing copyrighted songs when caroling.
Here are a few examples of copyrighted songs vs. public domain:
|Deck the Halls||Carol of the Bells|
|Jingle Bells||Feliz Navidad|
|12 Days of Christmas||Frost the Snowman|
|Silent Night||Rudolf The Red Nose Reindeer|
Like Happy Birthday, these Christmas Carols cannot be sung in public, at a business and even at a charity without the rights first being obtained and could result in being sued otherwise. Most Christmas songs have been remade time and time again because they are a classic genre that people only really spend 1 month out of the year listening too. For example, the song “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow,” originally recorded by Vaughn Monroe, is currently copyrighted but has had roughly 82 (legal) remakes by from artists like Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby to Blake Shelton and Lady Antebellum.
We understand that “the law grants an exclusive right to copy, sell, and perform a work of original authorship that has been fixed in a tangible medium” (Vaidhyanathan, 20) and only lasts for a limited time, but with the high volume of reproduction, why is it so important to keep Christmas songs from becoming public domain? Copyrights are to protect the creativity of an artist and make sure they get credit for what they have produced, but the truth is that people are violating copyright laws every day, possibly without even realizing. Below, this great display of Christmas spirit being in violation of copyright because the song being played in a public forum is not public domain.
Getting a license is not that incredibly difficult, only costing approximately $28 per song to reproduce when the rights are purchased according to easysonglicensing.com. However, if carolers want to walk around singing Christmas songs without profit, why should it be such a big deal? If anything, carolers are extremely beneficial to the original artist because they are promoting their work. In conclusion, free the Christmas songs!