Singing the Holidays Legally

Singing the holidays legally


Holiday songs are always there to cheer you up! But are you free to sing them as you see fit? Are they protected by copyright?

Classical songs

You can sing traditional songs in public from the time of the Parties in their original versions without fear. Take the example of Silent Night, Holy Night or Adeste Fideles.

Copyright is an authorization to produce, reproduce and publish an original work. In the case of these two songs, the reasoning is simple: since they were created a long time ago, they are no longer protected. This means you can sing them along without fear during a holiday performance.

In Canada, original works are protected until the 50th year after the death of the artist. This period will soon be modified to reach 70 years. 

As for holiday classics from the 1940s or 1950s, be warned: some are still copyrighted. This is why you should check the date of their creation and the moment of the death of the artist to be sure to respect the rules.

The more modern songs

Be careful, however, with classics that are no longer protected by copyright, but have been the subject of more recent musical arrangements. 

The same goes for more recent holiday songs, like these musical adaptations made by different artists circulating on social networks. If you want to perform them at an end-of-year show or have them played as background music for a holiday party organized with all the colleagues in the office, you will normally have to pay royalties. 

Artists are often members of organizations responsible for representing them. If the artist is not a member of such an organization, then you must obtain their consent to use their work. 

Of course, you can, however, sing songs freely in private. So don't be afraid to sing along while you bake your favorite cookies! 

Singing the Holidays Legally

Informative text – This text does not constitute legal advice; it is recommended to consult a lawyer or notary for such advice. Éducaloi is a non-profit organization whose mission is to inform Quebecers of their rights and obligations in clear language.