Music copyright in an age of online church

February 8, 2023 | News | Volume 27 Issue 3
Maria H. Klassen |
St. Catharines, Ont.
Emily Fieguth working in her office with the different hymnbooks. (Niagara United Mennonite Church archives photo)

The COVID pandemic brought many changes—some obvious, others not so much.

Before March 2020, many church musicians sang and played hymns and songs regularly in their worship services. For those singing from hymnals, no additional permissions were needed. However, for songs under copyright and being projected to a screen, usage was reported to Christian Copyright Licensing International (CCLI) or One License. CCLI has their standards on how often usage is reported. One License requires reporting every week on Friday before a song is used on a Sunday morning or at another event.

Then in 2020, many churches shifted to recording and streaming their services. This meant that any song used in that broadcast needed to be in public domain (meaning not under copyright) or be covered by a streaming license. If it was not covered, then the church had to find the copyright holders and request permission from them directly.

Suddenly, there were songs and hymns which the church had been singing for years out of a book, that could now not be used by the musicians in live streamed services. This made it difficult for music leaders and volunteers to prepare music for worship services.

Emily Fieguth, office administrator of Niagara United Mennonite Church, realized that something had to be done to make choosing hymns easier. She says, “The team who compiled Voices Together did an amazing job creating a wonderful spreadsheet of songs that are available online with all the licensing details.” Working with this spreadsheet as a template, Fieguth set out to create a licensing spreadsheet for the other Mennonite hymnals in a similar manner. (See the “Resources” section at for more.)

This was no easy undertaking. Fieguth spent hours during the summer and into the fall cross referencing hymns from Sing the Story, Sing the Journey, Hymnal: A Worship Book, Worship Together and Voices Together. Her next step was to track down individuals or publishers who held the copyright to these hymns. Most were easy to find online. Others were found through personal contact with musicians in the community who knew someone who knew someone else, and so on.

The first big challenge in taking on this project was that the contact information on the copyright holders listed at the back of each hymnal was not up to date. Since publication, many have moved or changed phone numbers. Some writers have passed away, and some have married and changed their names. Some publishers have amalgamated, and copyright has been transferred to another publisher.

Fieguth is requesting help in finding the copyright holders listed on this page.

The second challenge was discovering that there were songs and hymns in the hymnals that should have been listed in the license holders’ systems. For whatever reasons, they were not there, and the publishers have been contacted, the issue brought to their attention, and they are adding these songs and hymns.

MennoMedia, the publisher of the hymnals, is thrilled to have the list and information that has been collected. They have known that this information is needed, but as the hymnal committees have disbanded, there has not been anyone willing to take on this project.

Amy Gingerich, executive director of MennoMedia, says, “Copyright work is not for the faint of heart. It’s always a laborious process, much like searching for a needle in a haystack. And once a book is printed, copyright information on specific songwriters immediately becomes out of date. We are so grateful to Fieguth for her dogged pursuit of compiling all this copyright and licensing information for congregations.”

MennoMedia will be making the spreadsheets for hymnals available through their website when they are completed. 

Licensing songs for live streaming
If you can help contact these copyright holders, please contact Emily Fieguth at

  • Walter Klaassen
  • Jean Janzen
  • Howell Elvet Lewis
  • Piers Morgan
  • Doreen Clellamin
  • Ruth Duck
  • Alice Parker
  • Jean Wiebe Janzen
  • Gordon B. Tweedy
  • Jacek Gaiuszka, O.P.
  • Bradley P. Lehman
  • Caleah K. Pence
  • Charles Wesley
  • David T. Koyzis
  • Dorothy Howell Sheets
  • Doug & Jude Krehibiel
  • Earnest A. Payne
  • Edith M.G. Reed
  • Arthur E. Rusbridge
  • Frank W. Price (Estate of)
  • F. Bland Tucker
  • Francisco F. Felciano
  • Rabindranath Tagore
  • Seong-Won Park
  • Claude Fraysse
  • Paul R. Gregory
  • Joan A. Fyock
  • John Jacob Niles
  • John L. Horst (Estate of)
  • John W. Arthur
  • Jonathan Shively
  • Julia Smucker
  • Larry Warkentin (Estate of)
  • Lawrence F. Barlett
  • Leith Fisher
  • Lily Chapel
  • M. Lee Suitor
  • Mary E. Byrne
  • Martin Shaw
  • Mortimer Arias
  • Niko Njotorahardjo
  • Patricia J. Shelley
  • Peter Davison
  • George Black
  • Peter Tongeman (Estate of)
  • Richard D. Brode
  • Richard Wilbur (Estate of)
  • S.C. Ochieng Okeyo
  • Jose Aguiar
  • Phil Hart
  • Martin Seltz
  • Philip E. Gregory (Estate of)
  • Thomas J. Williams
  • William J. Gaither
  • J.W. Shore

Emily Fieguth working in her office with the different hymnbooks. (Niagara United Mennonite Church archives photo)

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