Have you ever found yourself confused by copyright terminology? Does thinking about the difference between a copyright holder and a publisher or wondering what it means if a title is copyrighted by one person but administered by a publishing house keep you up at night? If you’ve considered these or other copyright-related questions, simply take a look at this helpful list of copyright terminology, curated by the ONE LICENSE team!
Adaptation: Often a reworking of a traditional or public domain hymn or folk melody. The “new” (adapted) version may be under copyright if the adapter has made significant changes. Look at the printed version you have to determine if there is a copyright claim on the adaptation.
Administrator of Copyright: The entity (often a company) that administers the copyrighted work on behalf of the copyright holder. For example, if I am the copyright holder of a hymn tune, I may enter into an agreement with a publisher to have them administer that copyright on my behalf.
Arrangement: Arrangements may include an accompaniment, choral parts, a descant, parts for instruments, etc. None of these components are included in the ONE LICENSE Reprint License. To obtain permission for any components other than the original song, please contact the copyright holder of the specific component directly. Note: If the melody or text is not under copyright, such as a public domain piece, then that public domain element may be reprinted without permission.
Commercial Practice-Track: A legally made copy of a recorded song from a ONE LICENSE Member Publisher that is intended to be distributed to a choral group or ensemble for rehearsal purposes only. You must hold a Practice-Track License and the title you wish to use must be approved for Commercial Practice-Track use by the Member Publisher. Look at the permissions icons on each database entry to determine what types of usage are covered.
Contributor: The term that ONE LICENSE uses to denote the creator of the work (for example, the composer, author, arranger, or other artist). In our database, you will often see pieces with a contributor for the text and an additional contributor for the tune, should those artists be two different people.
Copyright: A form of intellectual property law designed to protect any type of artistic medium, including songs, poems, drama, literature, or even computer software. Whatever the medium, it must be in a fixed form, meaning you cannot copyright an idea.
Copyright Holder: The person or entity that owns the copyright on a creative work (for example, a specific text, tune, harmonization, arrangement, etc.). The copyright holder is the most important piece of information in determining whether or not a work is covered under ONE LICENSE.
Harmonization: Usually refers to the four-part SATB setting. If a harmonization is under copyright and you are reprinting it for your congregation, your Reprint License permits you to print the harmonization. If the harmony is for a public domain melody and you are printing the melody only, no additional permissions are needed. You would, however, need permission to print the copyrighted harmonization.
Melody: A unison tune. This is what congregations typically print under their Reprint License to be used for congregational singing.
Member Publisher: The term that ONE LICENSE uses to denote those entities that have agreed to partner with us. Through our agreements with them, we are able to license the titles they have included in our database for the specific usage types they elect. Our Member Publishers might be the copyright holders themselves, or they may be a larger publishing company that administers (or owns outright) the copyrights for a variety of composers, authors, arrangers, or other artists.
Non-Commercial Practice-Track: A self-made recording of a song from a ONE LICENSE Member Publisher that is intended to be distributed to a choral group or ensemble for rehearsal purposes. You must hold a Practice-Track License and the title you wish to use must be approved for Non-Commercial Practice-Track use by the Member Publisher. Look at the permissions icons on each database entry to determine what types of usage are covered.
Podcast: Any pre-recorded video or audio content being shared online within the context of worship. Our Podcast / Streaming License permits both pre-recorded content and content that is streamed live. Whether pre-recorded or live streamed, content may be displayed on any internet platform, including your organization’s website, YouTube, Facebook, Zoom, Vimeo, Instagram, etc.
Public Domain: Creative property that is not currently under copyright. The public “owns” these works and no permissions are necessary to utilize them. In most cases, music and text end up in the public domain because their copyright has expired, the copyright holder has decided not to renew the copyright, or the composer / author has intentionally placed the music or text in the public domain rather than copyrighting it. For a helpful guide on determining whether a piece is in the public domain, take a look at our Understanding Public Domain blog article.
Publisher / Publishing House: The company that physically publishes or prints the hymnal, resource, collection, or musical score. Sometimes the publisher owns the copyright on the work, and sometimes they do not.
Reprint: Reproducing the congregational melody and / or text in a worship aid, bulletin, or on a projection screen. (Congregations wishing to reprint music (text alone or text and melody) digitally in their worship videos should hold the Annual Reprint and Podcast / Streaming Bundle License.) Our Reprint License allows for reprinting the melody and / or text for congregational music only. If your congregation sings in parts and the item you wish to reprint is published in a typical four-part congregational version, you may reprint that version under your license. ONE LICENSE does not cover reprints for the choir, cantor, ensemble, instrumentalists, or accompanists.
Sole Selling Agent: The only person, entity, or company that is allowed to sell the published and / or printed hymnal, resource, collection, or musical score. This may or may not be the same entity as the publisher or copyright holder.
We know there is a lot of terminology relating to copyrights, and keeping it all straight can certainly seem confusing at times. If you are ever unsure about any of the terms above, or have any questions or concerns, please reach out to our team at firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance. We are always happy to help!
Photo used with permission from Canva.com.