What are you rocking this season? Earlier this month, Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) was spotted walking through the Senate subway blasting Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” from his phone, according to Politico (per reporter Andrew Desiderio). He is certainly not alone in his fandom and festive spirit. The Mariah classic once again returned to the number one Billboard 100 chart spot, earlier this month. This holiday season so many people were enjoying their favorite holiday music, whether it is the “Jingle Bell Rock,” “The Chanukah Song” (co-written by Adam Sandler, Lewis Morton, and Ian Maxtone-Graham and), or Band Aid’s 1984 famine relief “Do They Know it’s Christmas?” (written by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure).
Artists and the music industry rely on copyright law 365 days a year. A strong and balanced copyright system is rooted in the U.S. Constitution (Art. 1, Sec. 8, Cl. 8). The ABA has advocated for balanced IP laws since the 1880s. Copyright allows an author the exclusive right to her creative works for certain period of time, before the musical work reverts to the public domain. This allows for a variety of opportunities to share and publicly perform a work. In the case of Band Aid, the song’s royalties were dedicated to Ethiopian famine relief in the 1980s raising millions. In contrast, Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” has earned her and her co-author an estimated $600,000 in annual royalties. It is estimated that this one song has grossed in excess of $60 million since its release in 2011.
Today, it is easier than ever to enjoy holiday music on a variety of streaming services made possible by copyright licensing systems and the certainty in the law. Likewise, every year, older songs enter the public domain when their copyright expires. The balance between these incentives for creators and public benefit are part of the policy balance that advocates seek in light of the long standing need to protect creativity and the rise of new technologies, such as streaming services.
Here is a list of popular seasonal holiday music that are and are not in the public domain.