The Open Hymnal Project uses copyright law of the United States of America. In other countries, it is your responsibility to verify each hymn as being freely distributable.
Four parts of a hymn are copyrightable:
Each of these parts holds a separate copyright status, and must be considered individually.
Most of the hymns in the Open Hymnal are in the public domain in all four of these parts. Some are not. Specific copyright terms are listed on each score sheet and in each abc file.
All content produced specifically by the Open Hymnal which is not a part of a hymn is placed into the public domain. This includes compilation, indices, web pages (or parts thereof), scripts used to assemble the hymnal, and all other data files. Work from other open source projects is not our copyright and remains copyright of the respective owners. This includes but is not limited to the "Zebra Tables" script by David S. Miller used on the web pages, which remains copyright of David S. Miller.
All hymns or hymn parts listed as "public domain" are not under copyright protection in the United States of America. In other words there is absolutely no ownership of the intellectual property that the words, translation, music, or setting represents.
No one may restrict you from using these hymn parts in any way (in the USA). Similarly, you may not restrict others from using them in any way. If you change a portion of the public domain work, you may only claim copyright on the portion which you have changed.
Each work in the Open Hymnal which is not in the public domain gives specific license terms on the score sheet and in the abc source file.
Most of these have a license which reads similar to the following (from the hymn "Author of All Life"):
Words: Copyright 2009, Brian J. Dumont. These lyrics may be freely reproduced or published for Christian worship, provided they are not altered, and this notice is on each copy. All other rights reserved.
This means that you may freely use, print, reproduce, and make available for others the work in question, provided that the purpose is for Christian worship and that the copyright terms are left intact and are reproduced with the copyrighted work. This does not prevent you from using the copyrighted work as a part of another work which will be sold for-profit, provided that these terms are met.
Other license terms may be available, but can only be negotiated with the copyright holder. If you would like to use one of these works but require a different license, the Open Hymnal will attempt to help you to contact the copyright holder. We may be contacted via email at: editor at openhymnal dot org
It is the contention and intention of the Open Hymnal Project that when numerous hymns are gathered into a collection, such as one of the printable editions, the hymns themselves remain separate and independent works. Thus, the copyright applied to any one hymn is not applicable in any way to the copyright of another.