Are prayers copyrighted?
A prayer, like any text, can be copyrighted under the conditions of existing civil law. Whether this is always reasonable is another question. In the Church in its public prayer, there used to be only one concern: that anyone who published her official prayers would print them exactly as they are set down in her official books without errors. Thus in the Church, before the last few years, there was only this concern—that the original and the copy agree and that this be attested to by a bishop.
Now, however, with the business of translations and the role of bishops' conferences, we have the situation where the Church's official liturgy, which is the possession of the all the faithful, is copyrighted. The Benedictines of Collegeville, Minnesota who had published numerous inexpensive editions of the liturgy for the use and study of the faithful, valiantly opposed this copyrighting of the Church's worship when the practice began. They were unsuccessful in stopping it, and so in the States we have the odd situation that a member of the faithful who puts together a program for the day's vespers for a congregation may be breaking the civil law. Not very edifying, but that's the way liturgy business goes!
In the copyrighting business, it's "follow the money." This situation is not as strict when it comes to Latin editions even now, but for the vernacular this is the case.