“Then warm glows the sunshine, and warm glows the weather.” Washington Irving echoes the promise of spring’s warmer and sunnier days. And yet summer is glimpsed on the horizon and with it a stream of church planning activities during the vacation season.
Spring and summer months give churches the chance to offer special programs like graduation celebrations, Memorial Day, dances, concerts, 4th of July, VBS and youth activities, mission trips and wedding receptions. Church facilities are ideal for hosting many festive events, but what about the legalities of playing and performing music?
It’s great to enhance these diverse programs with music, but it’s important to make sure you have music licensing so you don’t risk copyright infringement or even a lawsuit. With a little planning, you can get all your ducks in a row so you can legally feature music in all your activities.
The U.S. Religious Service Exemption
Let’s start by understanding an importation exemption in the U.S. Copyright Law. The U.S. Religious Service Exemption allows churches to freely perform music in your worship service. But, did you know that many camps are at risk and out of compliance for performing or playing music in a non-exempt setting? In most cases, using copyrighted songs outside of religious services requires performance licensing.
Confusion often lies in the way we think of performances. Folks often think of them as formal presentations of some variety…a soloist, band, ensemble or choir. However, the performance licensing requirement is not limited to these situations. When congregations and smaller informal groups—including campers play or perform copyrighted music outside of a worship setting, they also require performance licensing, whether music is played by a professional string quartet or sung by an informal group full of amateur musicians.
CCS’s PERFORMmusic Facilities License offers an easy one-stop solution for legal performance and playing of more than 20 million songs from ASCAP, BMI and SESAC anywhere in your facilities or satellite campuses for one low annual fee.
It’s not too early to start thinking about obtaining licensing for all of your ministry’s upcoming summer activities:
- Patriotic Holiday Programs – For holidays programs like Memorial Day and the 4th of July, you may want to feature patriotic songs that are not included in common Christian worship catalogs. The PERFORMmusic Facilities License covers 20 million songs including popular, copyrighted patriotic tunes.
- VBS and Youth Activities – Many fresh, exciting “packaged” VBS kits are available and many churches are discovering how helpful they are in simplifying the planning and bringing everything together. We get calls and questions about music in VBS programs and what licensing churches need to keep it legal. The good news, with PERFORMmusic it is simple and affordable. Other youth activities that can be covered include:
- Moms Day Out
- Movie nights
- VBS & youth programs
- BBQs & social events
- Drama & music classes
- Concerts & sing-a-longs
- Dance & aerobics classes
- Missions Trips and Outreach – Since ministry teams often make videos with music of their experience to share when they return, it si important to identify if copyrighted material will be used. When you enhance your ministries through the use of CDs or DVDs, you need to secure the appropriate licensing to legally use third party copyrights.
- Unless a song is in the Public Domain, you must secure a synchronization license to include in your video, or a mechanical license for CD or MP3 recordings. In addition, if you use someone else’s sound recording, you must secure a master synchronization license. In both cases, you may contact the copyright holder directly for licensing. You can download CCS’s FREE Copyright Checklist for detailed information on how to get these licenses.
Legally Webcasting Your Ministry’s Performances
Your ministry can have an even greater impact when you share your activities with the world via the Internet. However, it’s important to keep in mind that licensing is required to legally webcast Internet song performances of copyrighted music. Again, you are free to contact each individual song owner for each song use, but many ministry leaders find this to be an extremely cumbersome, time-consuming process. CCS’s WORSHIPcast Streaming License is a one-stop blanket license that gives you a simple way to be copyright compliant and includes more than 20 million songs from ASCAP, BMI and SESAC catalogs.
While in the throws of planning 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. Call 1-877-394-5566 to schedule your consultation today!
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 YouTube. The information contained herein is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice or a substitute for legal counsel.