Music Resources: Protecting Music Copyrights

Specific questions and answers regarding Unitarian Universalist Association music resources

Singing the Living Tradition (STLT), Singing the Journey (STJ),
and May This Light Shine (MTLS)
Prepared by Mary Benard of the UUA Staff (), Melodie Feather, Administrator for Singing the Journey and
Copyright Team Leader for May This Light Shine (, and
Steve Finner, Copyright Team Member for May This Light Shine () adapted by Erik Walker Wikstrom, Worship and Music Resources Director for the UUA ()

1. How can I tell if a hymn is copyrighted and by whom?copyright symbol

Check the Acknowledgments section at the back of Singing the Living Tradition (STLT) or the credit line at the bottom of the music page in Singing the Journey (STJ). For May This Light Shine (MTLS), check the credit line at the bottom of the first music page.

Important note: Any one song may have several copyrights associated with it—for music, words, arrangement, and harmony. You only need permission for the part(s) you are using. For instance, if you are projecting lyrics on an overhead screen without any music, you only need to clear copyright for the words.


  1. For STLT, if there is no credit or permission acknowledgment for the hymn, the song is public domain.
  2. For STJ, it is admittedly harder to tell. If there is a name listed but no copyright notice and you can’t say with certainty that the song was published or copyrighted before 1923, you should proceed on the assumption that it is copyrighted.
  3. (If you are uncertain for STLT or STJ, you can just email the Office of Music and Worship Resources at with your permission request; they’ll let you know if the song is copyrighted and where to direct your request if she can’t grant it. You can also reach the Office of Music and Worship Resources at 617 948-6428.)
  4. For MTLS, all songs are under copyright.

2. From whom do I ask permission?

  1. For STLT and STJ, you ask the UUA for UUA-copyrighted work and contact the copyright holder directly for anything copyrighted by someone else. There is no need to contact the UUA at all if no part of the song is copyrighted by the UUA and you don’t need help identifying or locating the copyright holder.
  2. For MTLS, as stated in this book, “Photocopying of this collection or any part thereof is expressly prohibited except when otherwise permitted by law.” This means that aside from the limited fair use copying of part of a piece for teaching purposes, no copies are permitted. Please refer to the Composer’s Contact list in the back of the Director/Accompanist version and contact the composers directly to see if they have other arrangements or versions of the piece for which they can grant this permission to you. If you wish to make copies for a one-time denominational event, such as a district meeting, permission may be granted by contacting: .

3. How can I contact the copyright holder?

Often you can find the contact information yourself by searching on the Web.

  1. For STLT or STJ contact the Office of Music and Worship Resources at: . If you need to know about several pieces of music, we will email you a spreadsheet for the entire hymnbook, which lists all of the copyright holders by hymn number and the contact information that we have available. We’ll be happy to provide these spreadsheets on request so that congregations can have them available as a reference.
  2. For MTLS, refer to the Composer’s Contact list in the back of the Director/Accompanist version.

4. How do I request permission for UUA-copyrighted music?

  1. For STLT or STJ, email the Office of Music and Worship Resources at  with the hymn title and number and indicate whether you intend to use the words, music, or both. Also indicate how many copies you intend to make and in what format (i.e. orders of service, copies in a binder, etc.). Be sure to let us know whether it will be used in a worship service. The UUA is happy to issue blanket permission agreements on request for all worship uses of UUA copyrighted music in which the music is not copied in a durable format (such as a congregational hymnbook used repeatedly). All congregations are encouraged to ask for this blanket permission.
  2. For MTLS, the UUA only holds rights to the arrangement of one song (“Then I May Learn”). Please note that while MTLS is published by UUMN, UUMN does not hold copyrights to any of these songs or arrangements.

5. Can composers grant permission for the arrangements in the UUA music resources?

Composers can only grant permission for their own arrangements. If there is no separate credit for the arrangement in the hymnbook, this means it’s the composer’s own arrangement and you do not need a separate permission for the arrangement. If the arrangement is credited to someone, you will need the arranger’s permission as well as the original composer’s.

For STJ, the UUA holds the copyright for arrangements where an arranger is identified, but no copyright notice is listed. For MTLS, the composer owns the arrangement unless it is noted otherwise.

September 2007; revised June 2009