Monday, September 10, 2018

Can We Modify "Edelweiss" for Prison Retreat?

Dear Rich: My church group travels to prisons to conduct retreats for inmates.  We'd like to use the song Edelweiss, but with different words.  Would this be okay?
Many music lovers believe that "Edelweiss" is an Austrian folk song and that it was included in the Sound of Music to add cultural authenticity. However, the song was co-written in 1959 by Rodgers and Hammerstein (their last song before Hammerstein's death). The song is still protected by copyright. To seek permission, you should contact Concord Music publishers. Under copyright law, altering song lyrics requires permission unless excused by fair use (an issue which is difficult to predict and expensive to litigate). As a practical matter, you're probably not going to run into problems with a "don't ask - don't tell" approach as the copyright owner may not want to bother chasing after a church group for this type of infringement.