OCP and licensing music for Choral use.
  • ArcadeSage
    Posts: 2
    I apologize in advance for being long-winded. I found this site through some Google searching and need some help/advice for my local parish choir.

    I am fairly new to Catholicism, completing RCIA 4 years ago. In that time my spouse and I have joined the choir and enjoy it immensely. Recently we've had a change in choir directors and it has come to light that the previous director might not have had all the permissions necessary for the choir to reproduce SATB settings of hymns used in Mass.

    Our parish uses an OCP missal pretty much exclusively. And while it seems they provide a means of licensing to reproduce words and melody for the congregation, that licensing specifically excludes choral parts and choir use. Which also means it would be of little use to the parish as the congregation just uses the missals.

    This has caused a lot of angst and division within the choir itself as the members obviously want to rehearse and perform hymn with choral parts but the new director wants to make sure the parish is on the up-and-up when it comes to copyright.

    This leads to my question as a concerned choir member: What can I do to help us move forward? Is there some sort of licensing available (OCP or some other publisher) that would allow the choir to get back to singing parts other than melody and not put a financial burden on the parish?

    Thanks in advance for your advice.
  • GambaGamba
    Posts: 165
    You can get free, legal, harmonized graphics for most hymns worth singing here. https://hymnary.org/

    Many complete hymnals have been scanned. Just type in the song you need and go from there. Due to OCP’s routine butchering of texts, you may have to write in their altered words in places, but this is a free and legal stopgap measure.

    Non-public-domain stuff is sometimes there, but may not be, depending on the vagaries of the various publishers involved.

    This will get you far. RiteSong, the Episcopal online licensing agency, will also let you print harmonized hymns, if said hymns are found harmonized in an Episcopalian hymnal.

    Thanked by 1Don9of11
  • MarkB
    Posts: 205
    OCP has choral SATB hymnals of their music available for purchase.

    OCP also makes it possible to purchase digital downloads of individual compositions that would have SATB choral arrangements, and the price you pay would be for the number of authorized photocopies you would want to make for your choir. So the fact that there are photocopies in your music library instead of traditional octavos does not, in itself, mean those copies are illegal.

    If the choir has one copy of an OCP SATB hymnal and photocopies were made of SATB arrangements in that hymnal to distribute to the choir, well that's a violation of copyright.

    If you determine that all or much of the choir's photocopies are illegal and you cannot afford to purchase authorized SATB replacements, I suppose in the meantime you could sing the harmonies from memory as a quick fix/temporary measure until you purchase authorized music.
    Thanked by 1Liam
  • irishtenoririshtenor
    Posts: 1,049
    Your parish is probably going to need to purchase at least enough editions of "Choral Praise" ( https://www.ocp.org/en-us/collections/dg/63 ) for the choir members if you want to continue to do what you've been doing. Otherwise, there's good advice above.
  • ArcadeSage
    Posts: 2
    Your parish is probably going to need to purchase at least enough editions of "Choral Praise" ( https://www.ocp.org/en-us/collections/dg/63 ) for the choir members if you want to continue to do what you've been doing. Otherwise, there's good advice above.


    If we were to purchase copies for each choir member that would make us legal to use photocopies of the week's hymns in our choir binders?
  • Marc Cerisier
    Posts: 417
    If you bought digital downloads, yes you could use them in your binders. As convenience copies from Choral Praise? I’d suggest many do it, but the publisher probably wouldn’t approve. While some publishers are getting better about it, most prioritize selling their products over the convenience of users.

    Thanked by 2CharlesW Liam
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,954
    I have gotten used to using public domain materials, never having felt the need to use the newer and trendier materials out there. Even the hymns I actually use in my GIA hymnal are often public domain. Cheap is good!
  • Carol
    Posts: 453
    We don't have enough reliable men in our choir to sing in 4 parts so my husband writes SAB parts using Sibelius and we make copies of those and sing his arrangements. OCP arrangements often are not that good anyway.
    Thanked by 2CharlesW hilluminar
  • PolskaPiano
    Posts: 98
    It is my understanding you can make as many copies as you have hymnals for ease of use, but the copies must be destroyed afterwards. I understand how nice it is to have printed music for the whole mass, but it is a terrible waste of paper. I will only make copies for "choir binders" for Easter and Christmas and for the children's choir.

    I applaud your new director's concern for the intellectual property of others. It is only just that anyone- artists and composers included- get paid for their work. Perhaps your director can impress upon the choir the hefty monetary fines one can be handed without proper permissions.

    I would purchase the choral editions of the books that the PIPs have and call it good.
  • MarkB
    Posts: 205
    I believe that Carol's husband's approach is a violation of copyright law because derivative works of a copyrighted work must be made with the permission of the copyright owner of the original work.

    I suppose if someone wanted to improvise a harmony to a copyrighted song and didn't write that harmony down in musical notation and didn't distribute it, that would skirt the law.

    But you cannot rearrange a copyrighted song without the owner's permission.
    Thanked by 3Liam mattebery CHGiffen
  • Marc Cerisier
    Posts: 417
    I believe that Carol's husband's approach is a violation of copyright law because derivative works of a copyrighted work must be made with the permission of the copyright owner of the original work.

    I suppose if someone wanted to improvise a harmony to a copyrighted song and didn't write that harmony down in musical notation and didn't distribute it, that would skirt the law.

    But you cannot rearrange a copyrighted song without the owner's permission.


    Well, wouldn't it depend on what he was arranging? I also recommend asking the publisher for permission. OCP won't give it, as a general rule, as their structure keeps the copyright with the individual composer, so you have to contact them directly—which I have done with good success. When I asked GIA about arranging their works, I was sent their arrangement policy which was very fair and flexible. I've had no problem getting permission from MorningStar... Oxford was fine for getting permission, but it was not free.

    So, basically, don't assume that just because it's copyrighted permission to arrange would not be possible to obtain.
    Thanked by 1Carol
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,718
    A note: if the choir's SATB settings are not from the missalette publisher, they occasionally will differ slightly in text or harmonization from what the congregation is singing, or from what the organ is playing from the accompaniment book.

    Perhaps it would be useful for the director of music to go to the publisher's licensing site and run some sample calculations on the licensing costs for the download-and-print service. They may be manageable. And buying the choir books may obviate the need to license and print many of the missalette songs.

    At the same time, I should note that CMAA's web site, musicasacra.com, has a substantial collection of free public-domain (and Creative Commons) hymns available for download. They may come in handy.
    Thanked by 2CharlesW Carol
  • Carol
    Posts: 453
    If the hymn is a traditional one, in the public domain, then copyright should not be an issue, correct?
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen CharlesW
  • MarkB
    Posts: 205
    Sure, if it's a public domain hymn you can do whatever you want with it. I misunderstood you to mean that you were rearranging OCP proprietary, copyrighted songs. So you're not really rearranging OCP hymns, you're doing your own arrangements of public domain traditional hymns. That's a crucial difference. Sorry for my misunderstanding.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen Carol
  • Define "TRADITIONAL".

    Public Domain isn't so hard.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,718
    Just as a reminder: one of the forum guidelines is that this isn't a forum about intellectual property.
    We are not in a position to give detailed advice about copyright or permissions: we are not lawyers or other experts, we don't have the various publishers' policy statements in front of us, saying exactly what they permit parishes to do for free, or for no extra charge on top of their hymnal purchase or their booklet subscription.