Protect Your Church Against Copyright Infringement Penalties…Posted on June 22nd, 2009.
There is considerable confusion among church employees and leaders on how to avoid committing copyright infringement. Churches and other religious organizations can avoid copyright infringement liability by implementing policies that ensure copyright compliance.
One of the simplest ways to avoid copyright infringement is for a church to obtain a “blanket license” for the use of copyrighted materials. The church will pay an annual fee for a blanket license, and such license will allow a church to use copyrighted materials—such as lyrics, printed music, audio and videos—for the term of the license.
For example, a church could obtain a licensing agreement from an organization such as Christian Copyright Licensing, Inc. (CCLI). A church that obtains a Church Copyright License from CCLI enters into a contractual agreement with songwriters and publishers. By paying CCLI an annual license fee, a church receives legal authorization to copy from over 200,000 songs for congregational use. Churches can obtain similar blanket licenses from other organizations such as:
- American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP)
- Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI)
- Christian Video Licensing International (CVLI)
- Society of European Stage Authors and Composers (SESAC)
Once a license is obtained, churches must act in compliance with the terms of their contract with the licensing authority. For instance, some licensing organizations require that the church include copyright information on all songs reproduced under the license. This means that the church would responsible for including the song title, writer credit(s), copyright notice, and your church’s license number on the bulletin, song-sheet, or computer projection. In order to avoid liability, always remember to abide by the terms of your contract!
Statutory damages in cases of infringement can range from $500 to $20,000 or more per violation–and the recording industry IS watching, as exemplified recently when a woman was charged $1.9 million dollars for illegally downloading music. (See here for full article.)
The Church Law Group has released a Guide to Intellectual Property (with forms) that is now available for purchase. Email email@example.com or call 972-444-8777 if you have any questions about intellectual property matters or are interested in the Church Law Group Guide to Intellectual Property.