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Copyright Licenses and Sundays and Seasons.com: A Primer

Why should I care about copyright?

Everything that is copyrighted requires permission from the owner before you can print or project it—whether it's words, music, art, images, video, or recordings. It's the law. It's also the fair thing to do, to acknowledge and pay (directly or via a copyright license) whomever created and owns the content you're printing or projecting. We are doing everything we can on Sundays and Seasons.com to make it easy for you to do the right thing.

Does any copyright license come with my Sundays and Seasons.com subscription?

Your Sundays and Seasons.com subscription includes an Augsburg Fortress Liturgies License, at no extra charge. This license covers all of the liturgies, liturgical music, lectionary/NRSV texts, daily/seasonal prayer content, artwork, and children's bulletins found on the site. In other words, everything EXCEPT the hymns. As long as you subscribe to Sundays and Seasons.com, you're covered for this material. Your license number and correct credit line will automatically appear at the bottom of every worship plan download.

What about copyright for hymns?

Copyrights for hymns are complicated—there's no way around it. A hymn consists of a set of words, perhaps translated from an original foreign language, combined with a melody, set to a harmonization, and any of these components may have been altered along the way, too. Each of these components may be copyrighted (or not), each by a different person or business.

Regardless, you need permission from each and every owner to use their part of the hymn. If you're only using the text in your bulletin or projection, then you only need to worry about the owners of the text (writers and translators). If you're printing or projecting the music as well, you need permission from the text owners, plus the owners of the music (melody, harmony, and possibly arrangement).

Why is some hymn content available for download and not others? If I can download the content, doesn't that mean that I can legally use it?

We can only post content on Sundays and Seasons.com that we ourselves have legal permission from copyright owners to put on the site. When we get legal permission to offer the content to you, we put it on the site immediately. That doesn't necessarily mean, however, that you're free and clear. Regardless of its availability on Sundays and Seasons.com, you still need proper licensing to print or project the content at your church. It's your responsibility to ensure that you have the copyright owner's permission to use the material.

Where can I get hymn licenses?

We suggest one of two ways to get a license to cover hymns that Augsburg Fortress owns the copyright for: you can purchase the affordable Augsburg Fortress Hymns License, or purchase OneLicense which also covers Augsburg Fortress hymn material. Either of these will provide permission for about 25% of all of the hymns you can locate on Sundays and Seasons.com (by the way, about 50% are in the public domain, and so don't require any permission).

How does Sundays and Seasons.com help me with hymn permissions?

All of the information about who owns what for every single hymn is built into Sundays and Seasons.com. You can check the copyright detail for any hymn by clicking on the Details button when you find a hymn through the Hymns & Songs search page—but you don't have to worry about this when doing your regular worship planning.

Whenever you download hymn texts or music graphics from Sundays and Seasons.com, the site automatically checks to see if you need copyright permission to print or project this content. If you log your ownership information for any of the licenses listed on the Licenses page, Sundays and Seasons.com will be able to check if your licenses cover any of the content you're downloading. (These licenses cover over 95% of the copyrighted content on Sundays and Seasons.com.) If your licenses cover the content, you're fine. If you still need to ask for permission from one or more copyright owners, however, Sundays and Seasons.com automatically produces a separate permission request letter for each owner for each hymn that you're downloading. These letters will be included in your download, along with the music graphics files.

You can print and mail or fax this permission letter (using the address or fax number right on the letter), or save time and paper by emailing it (using the email address on the letter). Many copyright owners are very prompt in their replies (we try to respond within 2-3 business days), but you should leave about a month's time to get their response, including any fees and the exact language you have to include in your bulletin or projection.

Note that you can go to the Licenses page by clicking the link above, or by clicking the My Account link at the top of any page on Sundays and Seasons.com, and then the Licenses link.

More questions?

This is just an informal overview. We've got a lot more information on our Permissions area online, including a list of Augsburg Fortress-copyrighted hymns, license options and more. Check it out!

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