What Is Your Church's Copyright Compliance Policy?
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.
Do you have one?
Over the past 11 years, CopyrightSolver
has worked with thousands of churches and ministries. We have noted how few churches have Copyright Compliance statements in place that clearly spell out to employees and volunteers what is and is not acceptable regarding the use of copyrighted materials. So, if you church has not yet tackled this important project, you’re not alone.
It is very important to take the time to address this vital topic. Under the U.S. Copyright Law’s “Religious Service Exemption,” churches are granted the free use of some copyrighted materials, under specific, limited circumstances in religious services. However, it’s critical for ministry leaders to know and understand the exceptions—as well as what activities require licensing.
Otherwise, they may face risks and liabilities, as several churches were recently sued (one for $3 million) for allegedly featuring copyrighted music without first obtaining permission. Of course, there are also many important spiritual reasons to honor copyrights.
How To Create An Effective Copyright Policy.
Copyright issues can be confusing and complex so, at first, the idea of developing a policy can be overwhelming. We’d like to help by offering five steps in working towards an effective Copyright Compliance Policy.
1. Appoint a Gatekeeper. This person could be someone who has some basic copyright knowledge—your music director, or a church member with a legal background—or it could be someone with a vested interest in learning more—a worship leader or choir volunteer. The important thing is that this person is willing to learn about copyrights, consistently convey that information to the church and possess the personal attributes necessary to step in and point out when copyright infringement may be occurring; they have to be willing, at times, to not be the most popular person in the room.
: Evaluate How You’re Doing. Along with CopyrightSolver’s licenses and services, we also offer a wealth of free educational materials, including webinars, blog articles, knowledge base and live chat, where your Copyright Gatekeeper and other ministry leaders can ask specific questions. Our Copyright Compliance Report Card
is a very helpful tool to assist you in analyzing how your church uses copyrighted materials, where you’re doing well, and where you might be falling short.
3. Make the Most of Blanket Licenses.
Unfortunately one license does not cover all uses of copyrighted material, but you can tremendously expand your overall coverage by obtaining several church blanket licenses. Your Copyright Gatekeeper should first assess all the ways your church uses copyrighted material and make sure you have all of the necessary licenses in place. For example, you may have a CCLI license to print lyrics for projection during services, but that’s only part of the equation. Most churches also need a separate blanket license, the CopyrightSolver PERFORMmusic
License, to legally perform music outside of worship services. Churches that want to stream their worship music online will also need a streaming license. The CopyrightSolver WORSHIPcast
Church Streaming License allows churches to stream over 16 million songs from the ASCAP, BMI and SESAC catalogs.
As soon as you determine the licenses you need, get the coverage in place. Remember to use your DETUMC promo code for a 15% savings on your initial licensing fees if you require one of our CopyrightSolver PERFORMmusic
Licenses or our PERMISSIONSplus
4. Communicate With Your Staff and Volunteers. Once you have licensing in place, it’s important to convey your church’s copyright compliance standards through a written Copyright Commitment. Make sure each person in a leadership position has a copy and post it above copiers, near computers, in your music room and anywhere you think copyright issues might come into play. You may want to use the following example or develop one of your own:
__ (Our Church) ’s Copyright Compliance Commitment
As Christians, we believe it is our duty to live our lives and conduct our ministry in accordance with God’s directive to honor the laws of our land.
The Lord provides us with a wealth of musicians, composers, writers and artists who share their God-given talents with us so that, through the use of their copyrighted works, we can honor Him as we share the message of our faith.
Copyright Compliance is one area of responsibility for which we must be ever-vigilant. With that in mind, we have adopted the following Copyright Compliance Policy:
- As a church body, we will maintain proper licensing.
- We will never violate explicit or implied copyright laws.
- Where we have a question, we will ask for guidance and obtain understanding before moving forward with the use of copyrighted materials.
- We will not limit the Spirit’s direction in growing and developing our ministry out of fear of copyright concerns. Instead, we will seek to understand the necessary issues so that we can move forward in full compliance.
We believe that, as we seek to honor the Lord in this way, our ministry will be blessed.
Please address any of your questions to our Copyright Gatekeeper (Name) .
5. Reach out to Copyright Experts.
When you have questions or you’re not sure how to handle a copyright compliance issue, there are professional resources you can utilize, whether consulting a copyright attorney or a church copyright service like CopyrightSolver
Blessings in your ministry!
Please call our CopyrightSolver hotline number 1-855-5SOLVER (1-855-576-5837) to discuss your specific questions and licensing needs.
This article provides information and not legal advice.