The Free Hymn Project
Frequently Asked Questions
Why the Free Hymn Project?
The Free Hymn Project was started after it was noted that a number of popular old hymns and praise songs were still copyrighted, as of 2002. Many that were due to enter the public domain were delayed (in some cases, over 30 additional years) due to copyright law changes in 1995. For someone who wished to make use of any of these pieces, it was an arduous chore to find out if the piece was ever under copyright protection, whether it still was, who to contact for permission to use it, and so forth. The Free Hymn Project does an end-run around the whole issue by soliciting, and making available, songs that are free for the taking. We want to spread as many free praise songs around as possible, the glory of God through Jesus Christ.
We do not have the time or resources to answer queries about copyright laws (except for any inadvertant violations occurring on this site), about who wrote a specific hymn, or whether something is copyrighted or not. Please only contact us about pieces on this site, or to make submissions, or about the site itself. If you want permission to use a piece on the site outside of the above restrictions then contact the copryight holder themselves via the supplied links. We cannot give you additional permissions for any of the content - only the copyright holder can. If the link/address for the copyright holder is invalid, don't ask us how to get ahold of them - if we knew, the link would not be invalid.
We have what is submitted to us - we don't attempt to collect all possible hymns ever written. Hymns long in the public domain can probably be found at the Cyber Hymnal. We also want to encourage new hymns and songs that are more accessible to the general public (that is, those using modern English and modern-sounding music), although we will not restrict ourselves to those.
Note that no one associated with the Free Hymn Project makes any money from it. It is run by volunteers to the glory of God.
We are not promoting a specific musical form when we use the word “Hymn” in the Free Hymn Project. Rather, we agree with St. Augustine's definition of a hymn:
“...the praise of God by singing. A hymn is a song embodying the praise of God. If there be merely praise but not praise of God it is not a hymn. If there be praise, and praise of God, but not sung, it is not a hymn. For it to be a hymn, it is needful, therefore, for it to have three things – praise, praise of God, and these sung.”
Can I link to your site?
We appreciate links to this page in order to help spread the word about the site. However, please do not link directly to any sound files (midis, mp3, etc). If you want to make use of any of these files, please make a local copy on your site so that we don't have a debilitating load on our server.
Are we against making money on music?
Absolutely not. Many gifted musicians earn their living from their music, and rightly so. In fact, Paul writes that the "workman is worth his wages". We pray for the success of professional Christian songwriters and musicians - may God bless them. However, many currently copyrighted songs were the only (or one of only a very few) songs written by someone who was not making a living from music. For instance, the hymn "Let All Things Now Living" by Katherine Davis. Katherine Davis is dead. I'm sure no one in her family sees any royalties from the use of this hymn. The copyright holder (a company) has certainly recouped any costs associated with the song - but they have not released it to the public domain since they feel they can still squeeze a few more dollars out of until it enters the public domain in 2031. Note: we only use this as one example of a common situation. While we are not against companies making a profit, it strikes us as unworthy behavior when we are talking about praising the Almighty.
Why don't we restrict use to non-commercial purposes?
We want these free songs to get the widest possible distribution in the body of Christ. The best way to do this is to allow non-exclusive commercial use as one means of distribution. If a song is included in a hymnal or praise song book, or included on a CD by a popular artist, that will only help our cause.
What kind of music do we solicit?
We are looking for songs which are suitable for congregational singing, small praise group singing, individual devotional time, and church choirs. The songs should appeal to a wide base of Christians by avoiding extremely divisive issues. The most appropriate songs are those which extol the power, majesty, and love of Almighty God, that praise Jesus Christ, those that mark special occasions of spiritual significance such as Easter and Christmas, and those which use or paraphrase scripture. A song which has none of these things is an unlikely candidate. The lyrics obviously should not include coarse language, anything disrespectful of God or our neighbors, or anything else we deem to be unncessarily offensive. Songs for both children and adults are acceptable. Within the above guidelines, the style of the music is unimportant. Feel free to submit lyrics to go with any existing public domain music, or a new tune for public domain lyrics.
How do I submit a song?
Send a copy of the lyrics, and either the score or a midi file (or both) to us. Include the copyright date and the author's name. Please note the name and/or author of the music, if that differs from the those for the lyrics. If you wish to release the piece to the public domain, please indicate that as well. Include your email address and/or mailing address for those who wish to contact you directly regarding your submission(s). If you have a special short story about the piece, you can submit that too. It is also helpful to us if you can include any scriptural references related to the song, if you can indicate the category of the song (congregational singing, choir, young adult, childrens praise, etc), if you can include the meter (if you know), and if you can indicate the topic of the piece. Finally, if you have a recording of a performance of the piece, that is also welcome but optional, and less important than the lyrics and score/midi. Ideally, a midi file for a hymn should exclude any introductory measures, and include one time through the verse and refrain (if any).
Once we receive a submission, we will review the piece for suitability, as described above, and add it to the site. Note that this is a volunteer project and it may take a week for your submission to show up on the site.
We expect that the person making a submission is the author, copyright holder, or someone with power of attorney who can legally give us the permission to put the piece on this site (this includes all forms: lyrics, music, midis, score, performance recordings, etc.). By submitting material to this site, you agree that it will be made available according to the foregoing requirements. Finally, if you are found to be guilty of posting copyrighted material over which you have no legal authority, all of your submissions may be removed and you may be forever barred from submitting anything to this site. You may also face criminal prosecution from the rightful owners whom we will be very glad to assist.
What if I find a copyright violation on this site?
Notify us and we will immediately remove the offending item(s). We believe in obeying the law and any such violation is unintentional.