Decorative Christmas Balls

Did you know that eleven of the top twenty most covered songs are Christmas songs? Some are new, written less than 100 years ago. Many date back to the 1800s. When selecting songs for your holiday album, it is useful to consider which of these beloved classics are in the public domain and which are copyrighted. Copyrighted songs require permission from the owner; public domain songs require no permission and can save you money on licensing costs. How can you know which holiday classics are in the public domain and which are copyrighted? Read on to learn the answer to this question and more. At the end of the article, we list 78 very popular Christmas songs along with their public domain status.

What is "public domain"?

Public domain is a term for songs where legal copyright protections have expired and no permission from the owner is required to use the work.

What makes a song "in the public domain"?

Any song published before 1923 is in the public domain and does not require licensing for any use. One exception is sound recordings, where public domain status is handled differently from songs (compositions). Currently no sound recordings are in the public domain in the United States. Also, publishers often copyright new arrangements of public domain works. Even if the song itself is public domain, if you play from a copyrighted sheet music arrangement, you need permission.

How can you know for sure that a song is public domain?

The easiest and best way to know for sure whether a song is in the public domain is to submit it to us for a free search. We research the public domain status of the song for you so that you can be one hundred percent certain. If the work is in the public domain, we will tell you and you won't have to get a license. If it is copyrighted, we can help you get the permission you need to distribute your recording legally.

How can you research public domain status yourself?

First, try searching Wikipedia for the song title plus the word "song" at the end. For example, if you want to search the Beatles song "Here Comes the Sun", enter the search phrase "Here Comes the Sun Song". This will help you find the Wikipedia song page. There, you can find the year the song was released. If the release date is before 1923, if the song has no composer, or if it is a folk song, the song is likely in the public domain. If you cannot find the song in Wikipedia, you can also try searching the databases at PDInfo.com, CPDL.org, and cyberhymnal.org. Finally, Google is also a good resource. As long as you can find solid evidence that the song was published before 1923, you are clear.

What must you do if a song is not in the public domain?

If you want to record a song that is not public domain you need a mechanical license. A mechanical license allows you to legally distribute your recording of a copyrighted song you did not write (cover song). Reputable manufacturers will require Proof of Licensing before they make your CDs.

How do you get a mechanical license?

We can help you get a mechanical license to legally record your version of any song legally in 1-2 business days. To start, we simply need some information about your project and about the song you want to use. You can submit that information to us online, or you can call us at 1-800-360-5192.

Do you need a mechanical license for public domain songs?

No. You can submit your entire song list to us and we will research the public domain status for you. If we find a song to be in the public domain you will not have to pay anything. If you already purchased your licenses, we will refund the entire amount paid for any public domain songs.

Which Christmas songs are in the public domain?

Below are three lists. First is a list of 78 Christmas songs along with the year of publication and public domain status. The second list separates out the public domain Christmas songs. The third list shows only the copyrighted Christmas songs that are not in the public domain.

Public Domain Status of 76 Very Popular Christmas Songs


Song Year Status
All I Want For Christmas is My Two Front Teeth 1948 ©
All I Want for Christmas is You 1994 ©
Angels from the Realms of Glory 1867 PD
Angels We Have Heard on High 1700 PD
Auld Lang Syne 1711 PD
Away In a Manger 1887 PD
Blue Christmas 1964 ©
Bring a Torch, Jeanette Isabella 1553 PD
The Chipmunk Song 1958 ©
The Christmas Song 1944 ©
Christmas Time is Here 1965 ©
Coventry Carol Traditional PD
Deck the Halls 1800 PD
Do You Hear What I Hear 1962 ©
Feliz Navidad 1970 ©
The First Noel 1833 PD
Frosty the Snowman 1950 ©
Gesu Bambino 1917 PD
God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen 1827 PD
Go Tell It on the Mountain 1865 PD
Good King Wenceslaus 1853 PD
Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer 1979 ©
Happy Christmas (War is Over) 1971 ©
Happy Holiday 1942 ©
Hark, the Herald Angels Sing 1840 PD
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas 1943 ©
Here Comes Santa Claus 1947 ©
Here We Come A-Caroling 1850 PD
The Holly and the Ivy 1871 PD
Holly Jolly Christmas 1965 ©
Home For The Holidays 1954 ©
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day 1872 PD
I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus 1952 ©
I Saw Three Ships 1833 PD
I'll Be Home for Christmas 1943 ©
In the Bleak Midwinter Traditional PD
It Came Upon the Midnight Clear 1850 PD
It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas 1951 ©
Jingle Bell Rock 1957 ©
Jingle Bells 1857 PD
Jolly Old St. Nicholas 1870 PD
Joy to the World 1836 PD
Last Christmas 1984 ©
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! 1945 ©
The Little Drummer Boy 1955 ©
Little Saint Nick 1963 ©
Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming 1559 PD
Marshmallow World 1949 ©
Merry Christmas Darling 1970 ©
The Most Wonderful Time of The Year 1963 ©
O Christmas Tree 1800 PD
O Come All Ye Faithful 1751 PD
O Come, O Come, Emanuel Traditional PD
O Holy Night 1847 PD
O Little Town of Bethlehem 1868 PD
Once in Royal David's City Traditional PD
Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree 1958 ©
Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer 1939 ©
Run Rudolph Run 1958 ©
Santa Baby 1953 ©
Santa Claus Is Coming To Town 1934 ©
Silent Night 1818 PD
Silver Bells 1950 ©
Sleigh Ride 1948 ©
Step Into Christmas 1973 ©
Toyland 1903 PD
The Twelve Days of Christmas 1500 PD
Up on the Housetop 1870 PD
The Wassail Song 1600 PD
We Need A Little Christmas 1966 ©
We Three Kings 1857 PD
We Wish You a Merry Christmas 1500 PD
What Child is This? 1865 PD
While Shepherds Watched 1728 PD
White Christmas 1940 ©
Winter Wonderland 1934 ©

38 Public Domain Christmas Songs


Song Year
Angels from the Realms of Glory 1867
Angels We Have Heard on High 1700
Auld Lang Syne 1711
Away In a Manger 1887
Bring a Torch, Jeanette Isabella 1553
Coventry Carol Traditional
Deck the Halls 1800
The First Noel 1833
Gesu Bambino 1917
God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen 1827
Go Tell It on the Mountain 1865
Good King Wenceslaus 1853
Hark, the Herald Angels Sing 1840
Here We Come A-Caroling 1850
The Holly and the Ivy 1871
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day 1872
I Saw Three Ships 1833
In the Bleak Midwinter Traditional
It Came Upon the Midnight Clear 1850
Jingle Bells 1857
Jolly Old St. Nicholas 1870
Joy to the World 1836
Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming 1559
O Christmas Tree 1800
O Come All Ye Faithful 1751
O Come, O Come, Emanuel Traditional
O Holy Night 1847
O Little Town of Bethlehem 1868
Once in Royal David's City Traditional
Silent Night 1818
Toyland 1903
The Twelve Days of Christmas 1500
Up on the Housetop 1870
The Wassail Song 1600
We Three Kings 1857
We Wish You a Merry Christmas 1500
What Child is This? 1865
While Shepherds Watched 1728

38 Copyrighted Christmas Songs


Song Year
All I Want For Christmas is My Two Front Teeth ©1948
All I Want for Christmas is You ©1994
Blue Christmas ©1964
The Chipmunk Song ©1958
The Christmas Song ©1944
Christmas Time is Here ©1965
The Christmas Waltz ©1954
Do You Hear What I Hear ©1962
Feliz Navidad ©1970
Frosty the Snowman ©1950
Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer ©1979
Happy Christmas (War is Over) ©1971
Happy Holiday ©1942
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas ©1943
Here Comes Santa Claus ©1947
Holly Jolly Christmas ©1965
Home For The Holidays ©1954
I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus ©1952
I'll Be Home for Christmas ©1943
It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas ©1951
Jingle Bell Rock ©1957
Last Christmas ©1984
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! ©1945
The Little Drummer Boy ©1955
Little Saint Nick ©1963
Marshmallow World ©1949
Merry Christmas Darling ©1970
The Most Wonderful Time of The Year ©1963
Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree ©1958
Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer ©1939
Run Rudolph Run ©1958
Santa Baby ©1953
Santa Claus Is Coming To Town ©1934
Silver Bells ©1950
Sleigh Ride ©1948
Step Into Christmas ©1973
The Little Drummer Boy ©1955
We Need A Little Christmas ©1966
White Christmas ©1940
Winter Wonderland ©1934
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