Using Copyrighted Music in Worship Services

See a 2007 memo prepared by UUA counsel in response to questions from the UU Musicians' Network about how to legally use copyrighted music in worship services (PDF). Further, this 2016 memo details the legaliy of projecting copyrighted lyrics during worship (PDF).

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about the process of obtaining permission to use music from Singing the Living Traditionand Singing the Journeyin worship.

How can I tell if a hymn is copyrighted and by whom?
Check the Acknowledgments section at the back of Singing the Living Traditionor the credit line at the bottom of the music page in Singing the Journey. (If there is no credit or permission acknowledgment for the hymn you want in the SLT acknowledgments, the song is public domain. It is admittedly harder to tell for STJ. If there is a name listed but no copyright notice and you can't say with certainty that the song was written before 1923, you should proceed on the assumption that it is copyrighted.) Or you can just email with your permission request; we'll let you know if the song is copyrighted and where to direct your request if we can't grant it.

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 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.

Whom do I ask for permission?

The WorshipWeb and Skinner House teams have assembled this handy list of all of the Hymns and Readings from UUA hymnals that be used in broadcast UU worship without special permission

Email 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.

How can I contact the copyright holder?
Often you can find the contact information yourself by searching on the Web. Or you can email 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 will be happy to provide these spreadsheets on request so that congregations can have them available as a reference.

How do I request permission for UUA-copyrighted music?
Email 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, projection on a screen, 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). We encourage all congregations to ask for this blanket permission.

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

People of many ages sing from the pews and the chancel at the UU Congregation of Fairfax, VA.

WorshipWeb'sCopyright Issues Related to Worship page answers questions about what congregations can and can't do without permission from copyright holders.

Books stacked with spines in full view.

Members of the 2013 General Assembly choir, holding black music folders, perform.