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Copyright Issues Ask questions about copyright here. If you answer a question, be sure to include a valid source for your answer. Hearsay doesn't count! :)

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Old Thursday, April 23rd, 2009, 08:58 PM
rdj561's Avatar
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Question Singing Copywritten Songs In Church...

OK, just out of curiosity, if you sing a copywritten song in church, are you supposed to be paying for that song through CCLI or some other licensing agency?

Having created CDs, I do know about obtaining a license through BMI, Harry Fox, etc. for distribution. But simply singing a song in church? If we sing "Open The Eyes Of My Heart" are we to be paying a royalty for singing this song?

I apologize for being clueless to this matter, but someone please clarify this for me...
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Old Thursday, April 23rd, 2009, 09:07 PM
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That's the specific purpose of a CCLI license (www.ccli.com) - church copyright license.
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Old Thursday, April 23rd, 2009, 09:17 PM
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Do most of the churches across America know they are supposed to be 'paying' to Worship on Sunday mornings??? I've been in the church business since I was born (PK), and never knew that we needed to pay a licensing fee for something churches have done from the get-go.

So, a non-profit organization that isn't selling or rebroadcasting these songs, must still pay to sing them? Curious...

...I thought we were in the 'business' of spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ, and not trying to make a buck.
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Old Thursday, April 23rd, 2009, 09:23 PM
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A few quick comments:

1-all music is copyrighted, but not all music is administered via CCLI-but most Christian Worship songs are

2-Being copyrighted doesn't mean you have to pay a fee-most (though not all) of my church's songs are written by the MoM, so his performing the music doesn't require a payment, for instance, nor would most very old hymns.

3-While I personally agree, it's currently the law of the land, so I suggest we keep a good witness by following it.
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Old Thursday, April 23rd, 2009, 09:30 PM
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Churches have essentially always paid for the songs they sung. Even in the middle ages the large cathedrals hired composers to write music specifically for their mass. In more recent years we have purchased hymnals, which pay the composers (or rights holders) for the songs included in the hymnal. Included in that price is the authorization to perform those songs in your worship service. The newest approach, with CCLI and the like, is due to evolving technology that has allowed churches to steal the works of composers without compensation. Because we try to honor Christ churches sought a way to legally use the new songs they were hearing on the radio, and CCLI came into being.

Unless a composer specifically releases his or her work into the public domain you do not have the right to copy or perform it in any public venue without permission from that composer. A copyright license grants you that permission for the songs it covers and takes the fees you pay to pay the composers for their work.

It is, for the most part, a fair system that compensates the creators and doesn't burden the users.

Pastor Tim

Oh, in the FWIW category, it is not legal to sing "Happy Birthday" in a public place without paying copyright fees to the owners. That is why most restaurants have substituted something else for the traditional song.
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Old Thursday, April 23rd, 2009, 09:33 PM
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I'm just a little upset that we were not aware of this law. I wonder how many churches are clueless as well. I can understand if you're broadcasting, but this is simple worship...or at least it used to be.

Thanks for the information however!
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Old Thursday, April 23rd, 2009, 09:43 PM
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Tim, good information, thank you...

...and I'm not completely clueless to ASCAP, etc. I am also the Program Director for a non-commercial, Christian radio station. Per the law at this time, 501c3 radio stations do not have to pay royalty fees for music. This is how little college radio stations can survive. But that being said, we get multliple calls daily to direct listeners to where they can purchase songs or albums, so many artists are getting compensated.

I've also worked on a few CD projects through our ministry and have paid the meek and small royalty fees involved with these productions - and was happy to do so.

Again, sorry to sound so gruff with this revelation. I guess I will just claim ignorance and tell the pastor we need to either sing original numbers, or join CCLI...

PS: I really think that a large number of churches are ignorant to this fact as well.
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Old Thursday, April 23rd, 2009, 10:28 PM
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I think a large number are ignorant and a large number ignore it as well.
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Old Thursday, April 23rd, 2009, 11:53 PM
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CCLI license fees are very reasonable, based on the size of your church. I think it's something on the order of $200 a year for the sub-1K churches -- not sure, that's from memory and several years ago.

Related, public performance of movies falls under the same sort of rules. Many titles are covered under Motion Picture Copyright License, though increasingly the Church Video License (CVLI, related to CCLI) seems to be covering more titles and also has very reasonable fees.

I'd believe that many are ignorant to all things copyright (though it seems most in the metro areas, at least around here, know about CCLI). I'd also believe that many who do know about it decide to break it -- whether because of disagreeing with the principle, or simply not wanting to pay for licensing and believing they won't get caught. And chances are, most won't get caught -- but it's better to try and do it as right as possible.
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Old Thursday, April 23rd, 2009, 11:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by waynehoskins View Post
...but it's better to try and do it as right as possible.
I concur...
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Old Friday, April 24th, 2009, 12:12 AM
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Ignore at your peril... read Romans 13. Then read the Copyright Act (or whatever law applies in your country).

>> Begin Rant

So OK...

We have to (collectively, as the church) remember that there are secular people involved in the broadcasting and music industry (in both the Christian and non-Christian world) that see what churches do...

What impression do we give them when we knowingly break the law (both the legally enacted laws of society as well as the biblical direction - Romans 13 applies here)?

Do secular people look at us and say... well, there they go again... claiming to be Christ followers but ripping off artists (and music publishers, etc.) and ignoring the law all in the name of Christ. I suppose they (Christians) could justify almost any kind of action based on the "well... it's all for God anyhow" mentality.

Personally, I cringe every time I see a church blatantly ripping off the secular world.

I remember seeing a Church using clips taken from 'Seinfeld' on their video podcast. It made me sad because there are non-churched folks that I know who work in the broadcast field that have actually pointed this kind of activity out to me in the past... and it was a way for them to justify (in their minds) their reluctance to become involved in any religious activities... this can affect their eternity!

I remember when I was not a Christian... and my spider senses would tingle every time I got close to someone that I felt was 'playing Christian'. It made me very wary and I would not trust that they were being honest/authentic... and who wants to hang around with people that are like that?

<<< End Rant

There are some good resources out there for copyright information... CCLI is a good start. ChurchMedia.net is also a great place to ask questions or to investigate copyright info.

There are some terrific folks here that will be happy to help.

This world ain't perfect... copyright laws ain't easy to understand... but for now it's what we've got.

Blessings on your ministry!
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  #12 (permalink)  
Old Friday, April 24th, 2009, 12:30 AM
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On a bit of a tangent (the motion-picture one), our church secretary (or whatever they're called now) recently wanted to use a sound effect from The Passion in a narrative multimedia thingy for Easter. She asked about programs to rip the DVD of the movie or a way to capture it so she could put the appropriate portion of the soundtrack into Premier. She (and she's only a year older than me) didn't know that you can't just do that for multiple reasons. Well, you can, sort of, but it takes a bunch of licenses and takes more than a week.

So I got to explain about how copyright law works. I guess "normal people" are largely ignorant.

She ended up contacting the publisher who sent over a "church resource disc" that would contain, with appropriate licenses, the clip of interest, that would fit the need and be legal. The cost was next to nothing.

I wonder if the same sort of thing (requiring a sync license or something of the sort) applies to creating a slideshow of pictures (not under copyright, from youth camp or something of the sort) and putting it to a copyrighted song? If so, I get to educate our youth staff. They do that from time to time (but it's usually okay-ish because whatever they make doesn't work).
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