I field quite a few questions about the copyright laws and how they apply to churches. It seems there are always people who think we aren't doing enough to follow the law, and others who think it's not big deal and we shouldn't worry about it.
Last fall, I shared my thoughts about the Fair Use copyright law here.
Recently I had a pleasant email dialogue with a gentleman who is considering attending Granger, but first wanted answers about our policy on copyright adherence. He wanted some specific responses on how we would handle events like showing the SuperBowl or displaying copyright information from licensed material used during services. Here, in part, is what I wrote to him:
I am certain you will find that GCC won't be able to live up to your expectations of copyright compliance. As you know, the law is muddy. Even with the fair use guidelines, there is a lot left to interpretation and to courts to decide. We do everything we can to comply, but we are not attorneys nor do we spend a lot of money on attorneys to keep us in compliance. We want that money invested in ministry. We believe the spirit of the law is to not steal money from the pockets of the artists or producers or authors who were involved in the work. We are a huge proponent of the arts and those who create it, so that is our heart. Where the law is black and white and we know about it--we do everything we can to comply. Where it is gray or unclear--we interpret it liberally adhering to the spirit of the laws as we understand them.
If you are selecting a church based on its' ongoing copyright compliance and ability to defend every decision made at every level of the church--then I'm going to encourage you to look elsewhere. If you are looking for a place that is run with great intention and high integrity, where true life transformation is happening to hundreds every year, and where the message of Jesus is intertwined with innovative and relevant methods...then keep checking out GCC.
I know that response is probably not politically correct and might come under fire from some who enjoy the Land of Legalism more than I do, but as a recovering card-carrying citizen--I encourage churches to keep their eye on the mission.
That being said, there are some tools available to help you stay compliant with the laws that are black and white. Here are some resources:
- Christian Copyright License International (CCLI) - for the use of most worship songs and lyrics used during a service. Cost ranges from $49 to $4000 per year based on the size of your church.
- Performance Rights Organizations -- various group license churches to perform in public including ASCAP, BMI and SESAC. If you are a member of the Willow Creek Association, you can subscribe to all three of these licenses for $149 with no reporting required.
- Church Video Licensing (CVLI) - for the usage of most video/TV/VHS/DVD clips to show during a service. Cost is from $50 to $600 based on church size.
- If this is all too overwhelming and you want someone else to just handle it for you, contact the Church Copyright Administration (CCA).
- For the streaming of your services on the web, the CCA offers a product called the WorshipCast License.