During the seventies, someone started a very popular trend of singing the tune of "Edelweiss" with other words as a benediction song or for other uses. It was all very nice and very illegal. The word spread, and many churches stopped doing it. Now we are hearing that "Edelweiss" is being used again in ways that go against the wishes of the composers.
In an effort to state clearly the background and reason for the restrictions in the use of "Edelweiss," we are posting this information on our web site. There is NO authorized use of the tune of "Edelweiss" unless it remains intact and unless the intact tune remains intact with the original text. Only if you wish to use the original tune with the original text should you seek permission from the administrator of Rodgers' and Hammerstein's material.
These requests were a part of the two composers' wills, and the estate is very strict about honoring those requests. Below is an excerpt from a letter that Williamson Music (the Rodgers and Hammerstein copyright administrators) sends to those who request the use of "Edelweiss" with other texts.
Thank you for your recent request regarding the above mentioned composition. As you are aware, "Edelweiss" was written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. Ever since its inception, people have requested the use of its melody with other lyrics for liturgical purposes in houses of worship of many different faiths.
As with any song created in modern times, this song enjoys protection under the copyright laws which state that original works may not be used in any manner inconsistent with the creators' intentions. Both Messrs. Rodgers and Hammerstein II felt strongly that they did not wish their contributions to any song be separated and used with other words or music. Such is the case with "Edelweiss." Therefore, your request must be denied . . .
We do not have official information on penalties. We do know that Williamson Music is in a position to file major lawsuits. Based on other copyright infringement cases, infringing parties should understand that the fees can reach into hundreds of thousands of dollars.The point here for Christian communities and leaders is this: "Thou shalt not steal."
However inspired our intention, to use the "Edelweiss" tune with other words is illegal and a callous disregard of the wishes of the two composers.