On The Sixth Day Of Christmas CCS Gave To Me…

December 18, 2019

The Six Exclusive Rights Of Copyright Holders

To understand copyright law and how it impacts your ministry, you need to understand the six rights that are exclusive to the owner of a copyrighted works, as outlined in Section 108 of the Copyright Act. These rights apply to all works that can be copyrighted.  If you want to engage in any of the activities that are the exclusive right of a work’s owner, you need to get permission to engage in that activity.


Only the owner of a copyrighted work is allowed to reproduce or copy that work. Examples: photocopying lyrics, rehearsal track CDs, creating a digital copy of a video.

Making derivative works

Only the owner of a copyrighted work is allowed to create new works that are “based” on a pre-existing work. U.S. copyright law describes this derivative work as:

…a work based upon one or more preexisting works, such as a translation, musical arrangement, dramatization, fictionalization, motion picture version, sound recording, art reproduction, abridgment, condensation, or any other form in which a work may be recast, transformed, or adapted.

Examples: arrangements of songs, adaptations of plays into movies.


Only the owner of that work make can make that work available to the public by sale, rental, lease, lending or gifting. There is a “first sale” doctrine that limits the work’s owner’s control to the “first sale” of a copy. This means that if you buy a CD, you are allowed to then re-sell that CD without getting the permission of the work’s owner.

Examples: giving out CDs of worship service, making a video podcast of worship services and distributing online.


The owner of a work controls if and when that work will be performed publicly. US copyright law defines a public performance as:

…an instance of music being performed “in a place open to the public or at any place where a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances is gathered.”  That is the legal definition and most church performances, with the exception of during a religious service, fit the criteria.

Public performances extend to more than just in-person performances. Playing music on TV, radio and the Internet also are under the control of the work’s owner.

Examples: concerts, music played at church social events, on-hold music.

Public display

The owner of a work controls if and when that work will be displayed publicly. This right is similar to the performance right but it is for visual works such as photos or videos. The criteria for a public display are the same as those for public performances detailed above.

Examples: hanging photos in an office building, displaying a photograph on an overhead during a worship service.

Digital recording performance

The owner of a sound recording controls if, and when, that work will be transmitted digitally. This is a relatively new right that was added in “The Digital Performance Right in Sound Recordings Act of 1995″.

Examples: streaming on the Internet a digital sound recording featured in a worship service; Internet radio.

It’s especially important to understand the six exclusive rights so that you can fully understand what copyright types and rights are covered in the various available blanket licenses for churches and ministries.

Questions? Call us at 877-394-5566 or chat with a live copyright consultant online

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. Follow us onTwitterFacebookInstagram, 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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