What your church needs to know about copyright laws

copyrightI received a question this morning about resources to help churches better understand copyright issues. More and more churches use videos, images, quotes and songs in worship and in other church activities. They come from many sources: internet downloads, recordings, DVDs, CDs, etc. This is an area where the church needs to be careful. First of all, because we don’t want to be breaking the law. Copyright infringement is stealing. The Bible says something about that. Second, we really don’t want to get sued.

I am not a copyright attorney. I am just a guy who knows some people. This will all eventually end up on the riotexas.org site. While it is a work in progress, it will appear here. There is a lot of information out there on the issue, I will try to share some of the more useful and correct pieces.

Copyright Information – The North Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church – A short but comprehensive overview of what you need to know to stay on the correct side of the law.

Copyright Laws – The North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church – Another good overview with some helpful links.

Play movies with purpose and legal permission – United Methodist Communications – Some help for pastors who want to use movie clips as sermon illustrations.

The Copyright Coach – A great resource from Christian Copyright Solutions. Of course, they are promoting their products but they also offer some very clear, free resources. You may wish to download their free resource Copyrights 101.

I am working to create a dedicated page on the conference website with some clear guidelines and more links to resources. If you know of some resources, or happen to be a copyright attorney who wants to help with the project, let me know!

2 thoughts on “What your church needs to know about copyright laws

  1. I have dealt with copyright issues a lot due to my career in IT. Over the years I learned that public schools and religious organizations were among the worst, albeit well intentioned, violators of copyright laws. The assumptions involved are that, because a) “we are a public school/church/nonprofit organization”, b) “we aren’t adequately funded”, or c) “we aren’t avtually selling {whatever}”, “copyright laws done _really_ apply to us”. Unfortunately, whether it is music, video, software, or books, the copyright laws DO apply and they can result on some traumatic fines that can result in major forfeitures.

    I had a nonprofit client when I was doing independent consulting who thought software copyright laws didn’t apply. I lost that client when I insisted that they needed to get licenses for every instance of a particular program. The nonprofit got closed down a few months later due to copyright infringement issues.

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    • Thanks for the comment. I think many churches are waking up to the fact that they need to pay attention and follow the law. Fortunately, companies like CCLI are making it easier. Unfortunately, some churches are buying one license and thinking that it covers everything.

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