How to Avoid 3 Copyright Mistakes with Your Church Fall Programs

October 18, 2016

Fall is in the air and there’s a flurry of events designed to welcome new community members as well as strengthen long-time church member relationships. All these programs are greatly enhanced by the use of music, videos, and other copyrighted material. It’s easy to overlook getting the right music licensing because many fall programs aren’t part of the overall music program, so it’s important to have a plan and a way to identify any use of copyrighted material.

Church picnics, football viewing parties, youth lock-ins, dinner-and-a-movie nights, fall concerts, family fellowship nights, fall festivals, holiday bazaars for Halloween or Thanksgiving, and of course upcoming Christmas programs…all part of the fall fun.

Big events, as well as smaller ones, require PLANNING.  It’s VITAL that your team discuss the types of copyrights that might be used during each event to make sure licensing is in place. Your creative arts staff and volunteers need to be on the same page, as well as your church’s executive and administrative teams.

Even though most church leaders excel when it comes to planning, often that expertise is overlooked when it comes to copyright licensing and clearances. Applying the same planning discipline is paramount for establishing copyright compliance in order to minimize your church’s risks of infringement.

We have identified 3 COMMON MISTAKES churches make that can dramatically increase risks of infringement. If you address these mistakes, you’ll make great strides towards reaching your goal of honoring copyright owners.

Mistake #1 –  Assume the Religious Service Exemption Covers Everything

The religious service exemption (RSE) of the U.S. Copyright Law  (Section 110[3]) is probably the most important part of the law for churches because it provides that performance of a non-dramatic literary or musical work shall not constitute infringement of copyright. In other words, you do not have to get permission from the copyright owner or pay royalties to perform music or display the lyrics of a work in a religious service.

The exemption is a vital one. It is the only special treatment that churches and ministries receive under copyright law. As long as services are being conducted at a religious gathering, the exemption would apply even if they are held in “non-religious” venues such as an auditorium, stadium, or theater. The exemption excludes performance activities at a place of worship that are for social, educational, fund-raising, or entertainment purposes.

The exemption states the following are not infringements:

“…performance of a non-dramatic literary or musical work or of a dramatico-musical work of a religious nature or display of a work, in the course of services at a place of worship or other religious assembly” shall not constitute infringement of copyright.

It’s also critical to note that it does NOT cover activity outside your religious service. Remember the exemption only applies “…in the course of services at a place of worship or other religious assembly”.

Mistake # 2 – Forget to Evaluate Church Copyright Activities

If you’re wondering whether or not your church programs make the grade when it comes to copyright compliance, we have a fun and simple quiz you can take to find out. We’re very excited to offer CCS’s online, interactive Copyright Compliance Report Card to help you evaluate how your church is doing. This is a great place to start with a quick analysis and overview on just how “compliant” your church is, and where the holes are in your licensing coverage. It also provides you with simple licensing solutions and ideas to cover your activities.

When you get your Report Card test results, you’ll have a SIMPLE and easy way to make sure your church ministries are legally covered to use the music they want. You may also want to engage the services of a copyright professional to consult with you about your specific church activities and uses of copyrights. Or you may consider obtaining legal counsel from a copyright/entertainment attorney. If you’re PLANNING for your church holiday programs this will help assure your creative ideas are covered by EASY and affordable blanket licenses like CCS’s PERFORMmusic premise license and WORSHIPcast streaming license.

Mistake #3 – Don’t Maximize Blanket Licenses

Annual blanket licenses are the EASIEST, quickest and most cost-effective way to provide coverage in advance for many of your activities that use copyrighted material. One of the best features of blanket licenses is that you can sign up online and obtain immediate coverage for any of your programs or activities. Our FREE Blanket License Fact Sheet provides details on all of the available church blanket licenses and outlines what’s covered and what’s not. You can obtain several church blanket licenses to create a mosaic of coverage that dramatically simplifies your licensing requirements.

A Performance Facilities and Event License is necessary for most Church activities and programs, outside religious services. CCS’s PERFORMmusic license is the only ONE-STOP Church Performance License available in the U.S. and covers 20 million songs from the catalogs of ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC. Annual fees start at $199.

If you want to webcast or stream your program online, you’ll need a Music Streaming Performance License, and CCC’s WORSHIPcast Streaming License covers 20 million songs, including Christian holiday and secular music and starts as low as $225 for an annual fee.

Church leaders are often overwhelmed and confused by copyright issues, especially during this busy time of the year. Analyzing your level of compliance may be at the bottom of a long list of priorities, but wouldn’t it be nice to actually talk to a live person about your copyright needs? That’s exactly why we are offering a FREE 20-minute consultation. Just call 1-877-394-5566 to schedule your consultation today! You can also live chat with a copyright expert right from your computer

CCS’s Founder and CVO, Susan Fontaine Godwin is an educator and long-time member of the Christian arts community with 30 years of experience in the Christian media industry, church copyright administration, and copyright management. Susan is an author and speaker and frequently writes for several Christian magazines and online publications. She serves as an adjunct professor at the University of Mobile.

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


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