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questions about copyright infringment ...
Q: What does "copyright" mean?
A: Our nation's founding fathers determined that it was in the public interest that the creative works of a person's mind and spirit should belong, for a limited time, to the creator. The protection of these works is called "copyright."
The United States Copyright Law grants to any copyright owner the exclusive rights to original material for a term which is equal to the length of the life of the author/creator plus 5O years. (For many songs written prior to 1978, the term is 75 years.)
The copyright owner is the only one who has the privilege of reproducing the work. If any other party wants to reproduce the material in some manner, permission must be obtained from the copyright owner. Visible notice of copyright should appear on all copies of copyrighted music. Whether on the owner's original works or on permitted copies, the notice should be visible and contain the word "copyright" or the symbol © (for printed material) or a circled P (for sound recordings), the year of first publication, and the name of the copyright owner.
Q: Do other countries have copyright laws?
A: Yes. Most of the world now seems to recognize the need to give incentive and protection to creative persons. Copyrighted material owned by U.S. citizens is protected in many other countries by those countries' copyright laws and treaties with the United States.
Q: What about unauthorized photocopies or tapes that are now in our church?
A: Immediately destroy any unauthorized photocopies, tapes, etc., and replace them with legal editions. Possession of any illegal copies puts you in the position of harboring stolen goods.
Q: Can I copy music for my church?
A: Under the Copyright Act of 1976, only the copyright owner has the exclusive right to copy or reproduce a musical work. If a church purchases sheet music or hymnals, that purchase alone does not authorize the church to make copies or transparencies of the sheet music or songs from the hymnals. This applies to the lyrics as well as the music.
The only exceptions are (1) music that is in public domain (no longer copyrighted) may be copied; and (2) music may be copied in an emergency situation to replace purchased copies that are not available for an imminent performance provided the church replaces the copies with purchased copies.
Q: What about making audio and video tapes of religious services?
A: Under federal copyright law, only a copyright owner has the exclusive right to: reproduce, prepare derivative works (make changes), distribute copies, publicly perform, and publicly display the copyrighted work.
The religious services exemption in the copyright law permits the performance by the congregation and choir of these hymns in the course of the worship services, but the exemption does not extend to taping the performance.
Taping or transmitting a live performance without permission or license is copyright infringement because it constitutes making a copy and distributing it without the owner's prior consent.
Q: What about services for shut-ins?
A: If the church wants to tape copyright music for shut-ins, the options set out in Richard Hammar's The Church Guide to Copyright Law are: obtain permission from copyright owners; avoid the use of copyrighted music; turn off the recording device when copyrighted music is being performed; "splice in" prerecorded public domain musical works that were previously sung by the church choir; obtain a compulsory license; or enter into a "blanket license agreement."
Q: Can I make copies out of a hymnal?
A: No. Just because you purchase the hymnal doesn’t give your church permission to projected or broadcast copyrighted hymns or copy the hymns. Only the copyright owner retains the right to make these types of copies. If the church wants to make these kind of copies, it must obtain written permission from the copyright owner or obtain a license that permits such use. Please note, if the hymn is public domain, you are welcome to copy or project the words.
Q: Can I make an original recording of a copyrighted song?
A: Yes, but you must secure a recording license from the copyright owner, and pay a royalty fee. This includes copies of recordings or tapes of church services, concerts, musicals, or any programs that include copyrighted music.
Q: Can I make a record or tape using a pre-recorded instrumental accompaniment track?
A: Yes, provided you have proper permission. Two different permissions are necessary in this situation. The first is from the copyright owner of the selection to be recorded, and the second is from the producer/manufacturer of the accompaniment track. Fees are usually required for each permission.
Q: Can I show a video during a Sunday school class?
A: Only the copyright owner is given the right by federal copyright law to regulate public performances or showings of copyrighted videotapes. Renting a video tape for in-home viewing (the typical video store tape) is not a license for public viewing such as viewing in Sunday worship services, youth group or small church group meetings or retreats. Certain distributors of religious videos may include a license for public viewing. If the video is labeled "For In-Home Viewing," public viewing is not permitted.
Q: What is public domain?
A: Public domain music is that which has either lost its copyright protection or was never protected by copyright. Copyright ownership can be determined by looking at the bottom of the first page of each hymn. If the bottom of the page contains no copyright/ownership information, one can assume this version of the hymn is in the public domain and can be freely used. If copyright ownership does appear at the bottom of the page, the work is not in the public domain and permission to copy or tape is necessary.
Q: What is fair use?
A: Fair Use is not generally available to churches. Fair use is established by statute and interpreted by the court which permits portions of copyrighted works to be legally reproduced for purposes of criticism, comment, news reporting, classroom teaching, scholarship, and research. In no instance does this apply to a performance. The various interest groups involved have agreed upon guidelines which constitute the minimum and not the maximum standards of educational fair use.
Q: Is it permissible to make duplicates of the tape that accompanies a musical or printed work for "learning" or "rehearsal" purposes?
A: No. As good an idea as this is, and as helpful as it would be to teach the music to members of the choir, it is against the law without permission. Write or call the publishers of the music. They will inform you of their requirements concerning your request.
Q: What are the penalties for making unauthorized copies of copyrighted music?
A: Embarrassment is the first. Additionally, the law provides for the owner of a copyright to recover damages for unauthorized use of copyrighted music. These damages include the profits of the infringer and statutory damages ranging from not less than $250 to not more than $100,000 per infringement. In addition, prison terms are provided for willful (i.e., you knew what you were doing was wrong!) and commercial infringement. Remember, churches, schools, and not-for-profit organizations can be infringers too!
Q: What does a Church Copyright License do?
A: It provides helpful compliance with the copyright law in copying music for congregational use (for an annual fee)
It covers more than 100,000 songs from more than 1,200 publishers and songwriters
It grants permission for the following copying activities: to print songs in bulletins, liturgies, programs, and song sheets; to print songs in bound or unbound songbooks compiled by the church; to make overhead transparencies, slides, or to utilize electronic storage and retrieval methods for the visual projection of songs; to print customized vocal and/or instrumental arrangements of the songs, where no published version is available; to record songs in church worship services by either audio or audiovisual means
Please note, restrictions and conditions do apply. This license is intended for congregationally sung music only. This does not convey the right to photocopy or duplicate any choral sheet music (octavos), cantatas, musicals, hand bell music, keyboard arrangements, vocal solos, or instrumental works.
Q. Can I copy a 30-second scene from a video and incorporate it in a religious video I am producing?
A: If the scene is not very significant and the amount of copying is very small, and only one copy of the program will be made, and the program is not to be broadcast, transmitted, sold, rented or financially exploited--this may be a form of fair use. However, if the program you are producing will be duplicated to make multiple copies or if it will be broadcast, transmitted, sold or financially exploited in any way, you must request permission to make the copy and to perform, transmit or broadcast that segment of your new program.
Q: Purchasing a Blanket Copyright License
A: For information about blanket licenses, contact Christian Copyright Licensing, Inc. of Portland, Oregon (503)257-2230, this company can provide information about blanket licenses, fees and the list of songs in their repertories. Please make certain you carefully consider all the uses of the music you want to make and communicate that to the licensing corporation so the license will cover all your intended uses. If these licenses prove too expensive for the church, the only options, as noted above, are not to tape the copyrighted music performed, use only public domain music in the service to be taped, or stop the recorder during the performance of copyrighted music and splice in public domain music. Again, the church does not have to obtain permission to tape or copy public domain music.