Glory to God Copyright Basics

For the Use of Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal


Introduction to Copyright  I  Public Domain  I  Guidelines for Permissions  I  

Working with Copyright Holders  I  Copyright with Electronic Products 


Introduction to Copyright

    1. What is copyright?

      Authors own the exclusive rights to their compositions. This is called copyright, and it means that the composition is protected for many years—even if the copyright is never registered with the copyright office. A composition is considered to be “intellectual property.” The copyright may be sold, transferred, or inherited—but the copyright still endures.

      A copyright protects the creative works of a person’s mind and spirit. The United States Copyright Law grants copyright owners exclusive rights for a specific period of time or term.

      • For works published between 1924 and 1978, the creator maintains the copyright for 95 years post-publication.
      • For works published after January 1, 1978, copyright is given to the creator for their lifetime + 70 years.
      • Upon expiration of a work's copyright it becomes public domain.
      • Works published prior to January 1, 1924, are in the public domain.

      US law grants the copyright owner exclusive rights to their work; they are the only one with the right to reproduce their work. Anyone else must obtain permission to reproduce the work from the copyright owner. Musical compositions and lyrics are often referred to as “intellectual property”; thus, we treat the owner’s property respectfully, just as we do our neighbor’s house.

      Anytime we use another person’s property (or music), we must get permission to:

      1. Make photocopies of music
      2. Print bulletins, songbooks, or songsheets for worship, Bible studies, or home prayer groups even if we are not selling the copies
      3. Make a transparency, a slide, or an electronic file for projection
      4. Make a photocopy for accompanists or soloists
      5. Make audio recordings of worship services
      6. Make videos of worship services or special musical presentations (youth, children’s, holiday performances, etc.)

      It’s always better to ask permission beforehand if there is a question. Do not wait to ask forgiveness if caught afterwards. Plan as far ahead as possible since most publishers will not be able to respond immediately. When the volume of requests is high, some publishers may require as much as four to six weeks to respond. Also bear in mind that you will usually need to send requests in writing.

    2. What are CCLI and


      These are the major licensing agencies for church music that can make the permission-seeking process simple. Purchase of a license for your congregation gives you the ability to reprint or project the hymns and songs that are registered to each agency without seeking individual permission. For their guidelines and a list of the songs they cover, visit their websites. If you plan to reproduce hymns in bulletins or project words or words and music for most of your worship services, we recommend that your church own these licenses.

Web sites



  1. Who is going to care (or catch me) if I don't follow the law? WHY should I adhere to copyright law?

    Many churches have been fined a significant amount of money over the years for flouting copyright laws. Penalties for infringement range between $500 to $100,000. It is much easier, and much cheaper, to follow the law and secure the necessary permissions than to defend a lawsuit from a rights holder or legal charges from a government agency.

    Obtaining copyright permission is good stewardship and practices a basic commandment: “You shall not steal.”

 Public Domain
  1. What is Public Domain?

    Public domain refers to material that is no longer under copyright due to its age or other factors. You do not have to ask for permission to use public domain material.

    All compositions that are not protected under copyright law are said to be in the public domain. If both words and music are in the public domain you can reproduce and project them without any formal requests or permissions. However, if just the words are in public domain, you must get permission to use the music before reproducing or projecting the piece. If just the music is in public domain, you must get permission for the words.

    For further discussion of copyright term and public domain, go to

  2. How can I tell if the words or music in Glory to God are in the public domain?

    Please check the information beneath the hymn you are interested in. You will see one line with details regarding the music and another with information about the text. If you see the word “copyright,” the copyright symbol, ©, or the words “used by permission,” the material is protected by copyright. If you don’t see any indication of copyright, the item is public domain. For your convenience we have compiled a complete list of Public Domain Material in Glory to God.

  3. If the music or text I need is not public domain, who should I contact?

    The hymnal includes many works copyrighted and owned by other publishers. Presbyterian Publishing does not have the right to grant permission for their works. In fact, Presbyterian Publishing can only grant permission to use material from 30 of the hymns in Glory to God. For texts and tunes owned by others, requests must be made directly to the copyright owner involved. Please see the complete Index of Copyright Holders and their Contact Information.

  4. What does "fair use" mean?

    Fair use is a limitation and exception to the exclusive right granted by copyright law to the author of a creative work. In United States copyright law, fair use is a doctrine that permits limited use of copyrighted material without acquiring permission from the rights holders. Fair use is not generally applicable to churches. Rather, it permits portions of copyrighted works to be legally reproduced for purposes of criticism, comment, news reporting, classroom teaching, scholarship, and research.

    However, many music publishers are agreeable, under certain circumstances, to allow reprinting of items without special permission. Please check their websites or contact them for their fair use guidelines. For PPC’s fair use policy, please see Working with Copyright Holders below.

 Guidelines for Permissions
  1. How can I simplify the process of obtaining permissions?

    The purchase of a copyright license from OneLicense, CCLI, or other licensing service affords usage of thousands of pieces of music. This saves the time and effort of contacting many individual rights holders; however, not every piece of music is covered under these licenses. Confirm that the specific piece is covered by your license. If your request is not covered be sure to contact the separate rights holder. For more information on licensing agents, see #2 in Introduction to Copyright above.

    Some pieces of music are “public domain.” These texts and tunes may be freely copied without anyone’s permission; their time of copyright protection has expired. Out-of-print items may not be public domain, however. If they are not, permission must be granted by the copyright owner prior to any duplication. For more information, see Public Domain.

  2. How can I avoid asking permission?

    Singing from the pew edition of Glory to God never requires permission! Reproducing or projecting public domain hymns does not require permission, either. For your convenience we have compiled a complete list of Public Domain Material in Glory to God.

  3. How many copies do I need to buy before I have permission to make additional copies?

    Purchasing copies, regardless of the quantity, does not give one permission to duplicate copyrighted material. You can always reproduce public domain material without permission.

  4. How many copies do I need to buy in order to project the lyrics?

    Purchasing copies, regardless of the quantity, does not give one permission to project copyrighted material. You can always project public domain material without permission.

  5. If I own the hymnal, do I need permission to copy its contents? Even if it is just for the choir to carry while processing?

    Owning the hymnal does not give one permission to reproduce copyrighted material, regardless of the use.

  6. For the large print edition, can I keep copies of every page so that I don't have to make new copies (to put in LP bulletins) each week?

    We cannot speak for any other rights holder. Please check with them regarding their policies.

Working with Copyright Holders
  1. Are all pieces covered by the same copyright holder?

    No. The material in Glory to God is covered by approximately 150 copyright holders. Please see the complete Index of Copyright Holders. We have also provided a list of Copyright Holder Contact Information.

    The two main licensing agencies (see #2 of Introduction to Copyright) do license the rights to the majority of these songs, making it easier for you to obtain permissions.

  2. Does PPC grant permission for us/congregations to copy things out of the hymnal?

    PPC only grants permissions for the pieces in the hymnal that are controlled by Presbyterian Publishing (PPC) or Westminster John Knox Press (WJK)—material from about 30 hymns. These are indicated in the copyright line beneath each hymn and in the complete Index of Copyright Holders. We have also provided a list of Copyright Holder Contact Information.

  3. What is PPC's fair use policy for the material they own or administer?

    Under our fair use policy, congregations may reproduce hymns for use in a worship bulletin, special program, or lesson resource provided (1) that the hymn bears a copyright from Westminster John Knox Press or Presbyterian Publishing (2) that the copyright notice shown beneath the hymn is included on the reproduction; and (3) that Glory to God is acknowledged as the source.

    PPC controls only a small number of items in the hymnal and every publisher has their own interpretation of what is fair use. Please check with them regarding their policies.

  4. How do I get permission for material licensed by PPC or WJK and not covered by their fair use policy?

    Please submit requests in writing at You can also fax your request to 502-569-5113, email, or mail your requests to Presbyterian Publishing, Right and Permissions, 100 Witherspoon Street, Louisville KY 40202. Please allow a week to process your requests.

Copyright with Electronic Products
  1. If I bought the online version, do I still need to ask for permission to use it in worship?

    Many of the songs from Glory to God can be downloaded from the online version and reproduced in church bulletins without seeking additional permissions. This permission is indicated on the right hand side of each hymn detail page. If you do not have permission for reproduction of that hymn, that is indicated as well. Purchase of the online edition does not give you permission to project hymns in worship. Those rights must still be secured with the copyright holder.

  2. If I bought the projection edition, do I still need to ask for permission to project during worship?

    Purchase of the projection edition automatically conveys permissions for many of the hymns. However, you will still need to secure permission to project some files in worship. The product indicates where permission is needed. For a list of hymns requiring additional permission you can download the Electronic Editions Permissions Guidelines.

  3. Why do we need permission to record our own worship services?

    Under U.S. copyright law, recording any performance of a copyrighted work requires the permission of the rights holder, regardless of the type of performance. Performing a work without recording is allowed under the “the religious services exemption” in the Copyright Law, provided that the work is performed in the course of services at places of worship or at religious assemblies. However, performance licenses must be obtained from the copyright owner for any musical performance outside of a specific “worship service” including concerts and special musical programs.