Budgeting and Establishing Copyright Policies for Compliance

January 26, 2016

This is the third in a three-part series on how churches can plan and budget for copyright compliance for all their year-round activities.



In the late 1990’s, I worked with a well-known mega church, consulting to help them obtain all the necessary permissions and licenses to stay copyright compliant. It often felt like they took one step forward and two back towards their goal. I often talked to five or more different staff members and found their efforts were hit and miss, at best.

I recommended that they assign one person on staff member (not a volunteer) to coordinate all of their licensing and approvals. They made great progress once a single gatekeeper was appointed. Consider designating a “Copyright Gatekeeper” on your staff to oversee the following:

  1. Review any use of copyrighted material and determine whether or not clearances can be obtained on time.
  2. Determine what type of church activities are covered by blanket licenses which the church has acquired.
  3. Determine if additional blanket licenses are required.
  4. Advise if church programs need to terminate certain copyright uses; e.g., streaming third-party copyrighted video content which is costly or difficult to obtain necessary licenses.
  5. Advise church leaders if legal counsel needs to be obtained regarding specific use of copyrights or trademarks.

The churches with the greatest success in becoming copyright compliant have someone on staff who acts as a gatekeeper when it comes to legally using copyrighted material. It helps a great deal if you incorporate copyright clearance planning into your creative team’s planning process. If you have someone on staff who wears “copyright glasses” or is the gatekeeper, commit to him or her being present at all planning meetings so they can raise awareness, identify potential problems, answer questions, etc. Make sure that each person on the team is accountable for identifying material they want to use and provide copyright source information.

The gatekeeper is NOT A WET BLANKET to creativity, but a blessing to encourage

compliance and creativity. This message must be internally communicated from the top down. Clear communication is critical regarding how to determine whether or not a copyright use is covered by a blanket license, or if it requires additional clearances. Depending on the size of your church, the communication may be within departments. Or if you’re a smaller church, you may have a more centralized means of reviewing and approving copyright uses. You can download a FREE “Church Copyright Policy Sample Outline” at The Copyright Coach under RESOURCES.

Planning: Budgets and Operations

Projected copyright licensing costs for ongoing weekly activities and major productions should be incorporated into annual budgets. Reviewing possible uses of copyrighted works in your special holiday programs and projects requires that you understand what creative works can be copyrighted and protected under U.S. Copyright Law. For more information on learning about the basic building blocks of copyrights, download our FREE Copyrights 101 Fact Sheet.

For larger churches, each department or ministry head should be responsible for submitting their “copyright” expense projections for the annual budget. Royalty rates vary depending on the owner of the copyright and the type of license that is required; for example, the rates for a synchronization license, which is necessary to sync music on an audiovideo product, may range from $.15 to $.25 per song per video, and some secular music publishers charge high minimum fees or advances. You can download CCS’s FREE Royalty Budget Estimator for details on royalties fees for all types of copyright licenses. Another important part of a church’s annual copyright budget is the inclusion of yearly fees for various blanket licenses.

By far, the easiest, simplest and most affordable way to plan ahead for compliance, is to leverage available blanket licenses. You can also download CCS’s FREE Blanket Licenses FACT SHEET, to share with your church leadership.

Susan Fontaine Godwin is CCS’s founder/CVO, 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 Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. The information contained herein is for informational purposes only, and is not legal advice or a substitute for legal counsel.

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