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Public Domain Christmas Songs Question

Chris asks…

free clairnet/oboe christmas music?

Me and my cousin were going to play Christmas music at our grandparents house tonight. he plays the oboe and i play the clarinet. i have some music…O holy night, joy to the world, angles we have heard on high, deck the halls, frosty the snow man, good king wenceslas, holly jolly christmas, jingle bells, jolly old st. nicholas, little drummer boy, o christmas tree, up on the housetop, feliz navidad, olympia (even though i dont think it is christmas), bells of winter and a different version of rudolph the red nosed reindeer…i was wondering if someone could find we wish you a merry christmas, santa claus is coming to town, silent night, jingle bell rock, or something else….we like to play easy notes and if it is only clarinet or oboe, that is fine too…they both have pretty close of notes, i think so we can play each others parts.

Thank you!!!!

Kristyn!
now that i look at it, the notes aren’t that close so if you could just try to look for oboe and clarinet separate thats good. but if its one or the other, thats fine too.

scottparat answers:

Most Christmas music is still protected by the copyright laws
(which last for 75-95 years or more)
so ALL of those songs would be ILLEGAL to download for free

a newer version of ANY song
(INCLUDING public domain)
WILL be protected by the copyright laws, since it will carry it’s OWN copyrights

Richard asks…

Do I have to pay royalties if covering a traditional song?

Let’s say I am going to cover Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, do I have to pay royalties or copyright the cover?

Also, let’s say I’m going to cover Silent Night, (if I remember correct) Franz Xaver Gruber made the song, do I have to pay royalties to some company?

I know these might be dumb but I’m still kind of new to the Royalty/Copyright thing.
Well that’s the thing, how do I pay Royalties to a person who made a song over 100 years ago or to someone we don’t know made it?

scottparat answers:

Christmas carols such as silent night are royalty free. But not ALL christmas carols are free.

To know if you’re off the hook, you have to find out when the song was released because here’s a set of rules for a song to become public domain:

1. Songs release before 1923 are all public domain.
2. Copyrighted songs after 1923 to 1964 are protected for 28 years. So if the owners renewed their copyright before deadline then they’d get additional 67 years of ownership (or something like that).
3. Songs created between 1964 to 1977 are protected for 28 years + 67 years (the additional 67 is automatic during this time), in short it’s copyright protected for 95 years.
4. Songs created after 1978 are protected as long as the songwriter is alive + 70 years after they die.

So yeah, if the songs fall in the public domain category then you’re safe. You can also find a list of public domain christmas songs on the net.

Hope this helps.

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