Editor's Note: This is the latest in a series of copyright articles from CopyrightSolver. The conference Commission on Communications partnered with CopyrightSolver to aid local churches in the complicated world of copyright information.
While June turns our hearts to dreams of leisurely vacations, church ministries are busy presenting a broad variety of summer activities. From camping to concerts to VBS programs and mission trips, music is always a key element in most church activities.
It’s great to enhance these summertime ministries with music, but it’s important to make sure you’re copyright compliant so you don’t risk copyright infringement or even a lawsuit. Recent lawsuits raised a major red flag for Christian leaders who may think that churches and ministries have a special immunity when it comes to the US Copyright Law.
The U.S. Religious Service Exemption
The U.S. Religious Service Exemption allows you to freely perform music in your worship service. But did you know that many camps are at risk and out of compliance for performing or playing music in a non-exempt setting? In most cases, using copyrighted songs outside of religious services, requires performance licensing.
Confusion often lies in the way we think of performances. Many times, we think of them as formal presentations of some variety…a soloist, ensemble or choir. However, the performance licensing requirement is not limited to these situations. When congregations and smaller informal groups—including campers—use copyrighted music outside of a worship setting, they also require performance licensing, whether music is played by a professional string quartet or sung by an informal group full of amateur musicians.
CopyrightSolver’s PERFORMMusic License offers an easy one-stop solution for legal performance and playing of more than 16 million songs from ASCAP, BMI and SESAC for one low annual fee with NO reporting required.
Making CDs and DVDs
Many church and youth leaders find that making a CD or DVD provides a great way to introduce new music or capture memories of your events. When you enhance your ministries through the use of CDs or DVDs, you need to secure the appropriate licensing to legally use third party copyrights. Unless a song is in the Public Domain, you must secure a synchronization license to include it in your project. In addition, if you use someone else’s sound recording, you must secure a master synchronization license. In both cases, you may contact the copyright holder directly, or you can work with CopyrightSolver’s PERMISSIONSplus Service and a professional online consultant will act on your behalf to obtain the permissions you need.
Legally Webcasting Your Ministry’s Performances
Your ministry or camp can have an even greater impact when you share your activities with the world via the Internet. However, it’s important to keep in mind that licensing is required to legally webcast Internet song performances of copyrighted music. Again, you are free to contact each individual song owner for each song use, but many ministry leaders find this to be an extremely cumbersome, time-consuming process. CopyrightSolver’s WORSHIPCast License is a blanket license that gives you a simple way to be copyright compliant and includes more than 16 million songs from ASCAP, BMI and SESAC catalogs.
The Use of Purchased VBS Theme Packages
Many fresh, exciting “packaged” Vacation Bible School kits are available and many churches are discovering how helpful they are in simplifying the planning and bringing everything together. Typically, these kits contain songs, lessons, skits and everything you need to pull off a dynamic VBS experience.
Christian Copyright Solutions (CCS) makes it easy to cover all the legal aspects of using copyrighted music throughout your church's summer activities. And remember, as a Detroit Conference church, you can save 15% off of your initial fees on CopyrightSolver’s WORSHIPcast, PERFORMmuisc Licenses and PERMISSIONSplus Service.
If you have any questions about any of the copyright compliance requirements for your summertime programs, projects or services, please call the CopyrightSolver hotline number (1-855-5SOLVER) to discuss your specific licensing needs.
This information is only intended to be an overview. This document provides information and not legal advice. For more information and resources, including fact sheets, videos and idea kits, visit our Detroit Conference page at www.copyrightsolver.com/detroitumc.