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Mon Jun 17, 2013
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Mon Jun 17, 2013
by Justin Holcomb
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Sun Jun 16, 2013
by Josh Mcpherson
Thank God Jesus Didn’t Copyright The Gospel
For most musicians, details of copyright law are the last thing they want to deal with. Yet the nature of music for gathered worship makes these issues unavoidable.
Copyright law has real implications on how we use music and, if you are a songwriter, has a huge effect on how you protect and give permission for others to use your songs. The problem is that when faced with these issues, most Christians either stick their heads in the sand and ignore them or maintain the status quo, neither of which is acceptable.
A Few Things You Should Know About Copyright
Once you create a work (at least in the USA) it is automatically covered under the protection of US Copyright with “all rights reserved.” There is an exemption in copyright law allowing copyrighted material to be performed in the context of “religious services.” This means anything outside of a musical performance specifically in the confines of a worship service is illegal unless you have either a specific agreement with the content creator or a license that covers that content.
- Displaying or printing lyrics in any form
- Recording music in any form for any purpose
- Translating songs into a different language
- Distributing recordings in any way
How a License Protects
So if you have ever recorded a worship song that is copyrighted, made a demo for your band, put lyrics on a projection slide, or made a song sheet without a license or permission, you have broken the law. Many of us seek the protection of CCLI (Christian Copyright Licensing International), but you need to know that their license only applies to displaying lyrics and recording worship services onto physical CDs or DVDs.
There is another organization called Christian Copyright Solutions that offers a range of other licenses for performance, webcasting, and video/sync (putting music with your videos) rights. However, even if you bought both of these licenses, you still cannot legally make a recording of a worship song that you do not own for any purpose, even if you don’t charge for it.
Render to Caesar What Is Caesar’s?
At this point in the conversation the common response is, “Well, Jesus said to render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.” This is true, as far as it goes. Where songwriters have chosen to reserve all their rights, we need to honor their wishes and make every effort to comply with the law. In this sense we do need to give Caesar what he deserves. But when we write new songs, we have a choice. We don’t have to live in Rome!
There are many other options, and I will get into them in the next post.
To be continued.