4 Keys to Helping Your Church Become Copyright Compliant

July 16, 2014

I’ve never talked with a church or ministry leader who doesn’t want to be copyright compliant, but they are often confused about where to start.

Most churches want to do the right thing and honor copyrights, but it can be a very intimidating and scary prospect. When I visit churches and teach about copyright issues, pastors and leaders often say they feel overwhelmed and confused. It’s just hard to know where to begin.

Copyright compliance doesn’t happen overnight…it’s a process. That being said, there are certain copyright infringements that represent higher risks and can result in high fines and fees, so it is important to address some critical issues right away. Here are four keys to how you can minimize your risks and P.L.A.N. for compliance:

1) PREPARE – a list of all the areas and types of activities in your church that use copyrighted material;

2) LEARN – the basics of the Copyright Law and blanket licenses that may provide coverage for your activities;

3) ALLOW –  enough time to research and obtain permissions prior to copyright use;

4) NEVER – use copyrighted material without permission or exemption

PREPARE means doing due diligence. You must delve into research and evaluation with your church staff and volunteers to identify where and how copyrighted works are being used in the course of your church’s activities and services.

A good place to start is by reviewing your website and focus on any copyrighted materials on the site. Websites may contain several types of copyrights, including music, sound recordings, visual images, literary works and audiovisuals. It’s a good idea to assign a gatekeeper to make sure no uncleared copyrights are posted on your site. Websites make churches more visible, as well as more vulnerable.

LEARN the basics about how the US Copyright Law impacts churches. Download CCS’s Free Fact Sheet on Copyrights 101 to get started.  You may also want to engage a copyright professional or an attorney to advise your church on the important areas that impact your activities.

One of the best ways to become copyright compliant is to learn about all the available church blanket licenses, provide churches with the simplest and most cost-efficient method to get copyright coverage. These licenses allow different uses and cover different works. It’s important to understand what the licenses cover and do NOT cover. Down CCS’s Free Fact Sheet on Blanket Licenses.

ALLOW enough time to obtain permission or licenses for the copyrights and uses that are not covered by a blanket license. Permissions can take as long as 4-8 weeks. It helps to incorporate copyright clearances into the creative process when you begin planning for special events.

NEVER use copyrighted material with permission or being certain that the use is covered by an exemption in the US Copyright Law; e.g., the Religious Service Exemption. It is best for a church to have include copyright compliance in its policies and procedures document staff members.

We’ve always wanted to provide a tool for churches that would help them get a quick read on where they’re doing well and where there are holes in their copyright coverage. With that in mind, we have created a free online interactive tool called the Copyright Compliance Report Card.

We thought it would be fun to create a game you can play on your own without fear of judgment or recrimination. The Copyright Compliance Report Card is for entertainment purposes only, but along the way you’ll find some very useful information and practical ideas on how to become more compliant. It will take about 5-10 minutes for you to answer 12 questions. When you’re done, you’ll get a grade and a summary report on specific categories to give you an idea of where you can find licensing solutions or consider making policy changes.

Play the game and see how you score. All the information is anonymous and no data is stored in the CCS system and NO, you will not get a call from the Copyright Police! However, if you have questions you can call or live chat with one of our Copyright Solvers (1-555-5SOLVER).

About Christian Copyright Solutions: CCS’s quest is to help churches and Christian ministries “do music right.” CCS is an expert on church music copyrights and our primary focus is providing licensing and clear educational resources to churches, as well as representation, administration and advocacy for copyright owners. Follow us onTwitter, FacebookandPinterest.

The information contained herein is for informational purposes only, and is not legal advice or a substitute for legal counsel.

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