There are a lot of myths surrounding copyrighted material and its use in churches. One of the most common myths is linked to the Religious Service Exemption and the Fair Use doctrine. The MYTH? Churches can use ANY copyrighted work without permission. TRUTH: Most uses of copyrighted material require permission from the copyright owner. There are SOME exceptions or limitations that cover specific uses of certain types of copyrights.
Here is an excerpt from Religious Service Exemption and the Fair Use Doctrine in Chapter 3 of our new eBook “Solve the Puzzle of Copyrights: Six Steps To Learning How To Do Music Right” By Susan Fontaine Godwin. You can download the eBook for FREE here.
There are important limitations or exceptions, often called “exemptions,” to the U.S. Copyright Law, which allow for copyrighted works to be used without permission from the copyright owner.
In Chapter 3, we will take a close look at the Religious Service Exemption (RSE) and the Fair Use Doctrine as they relate to church and ministry activities. You will learn what types of copyrights and exclusive rights are covered in the RSE, and what is not considered exempt. We will also unpack the four key factors that Judges use to rule on whether or not a copyright use is considered Fair Use. We feature attorney Brock Shinen’s excellent teaching on application of Fair Use, which provides examples of church activities that may or may not qualify for Fair Use.
The Religious Service Exemption (RSE) of the U.S. Copyright Law (Section 110) is probably the most important part of the law for churches, but it also can be very confusing for church leaders to understand and identify what it covers and what it does not include. Does it include all types of copyrighted works or just a few? What rights are covered in the exemption? Does is exempt churches from getting licenses from copyright owners for any and all activities? These are just a few questions we hear frequently from church leaders.