Ryan Rose, Media and Discipleship Pastor at Butterfield Church in Van Buren, Arkansas honors copyright laws just as he honors God. Since beginning his ministry in 2008, Rose has worked with volunteer staff to film weekly services, created and maintained church websites as well as church social media sites, and filmed and edited videos.
While in this position, Rose has encountered the complexity of following copyright laws in the church. “Initially, studying copyright legalities in church media afforded me the opportunity to become acclimated to the laws and how each law applies to various functions within the church.”
Although copyright laws appear complicated in nature, several resources are made available for churches to reference. In addition, church copyright licensing can be expensive depending upon the size of the congregation, but protection against potential lawsuits remains less costly. According to Legal Zoom, churches are given some exemptions; however, copyright laws are specific and sustain severe consequences if not followed.
Rose asserted, “We perform and display worship songs every week. In order to perform these live as well as display the lyrics we pay for a CCLI license annually.” Christian Copyright License International (CCLI) provides the church with the rights to:
- Enter and store song lyrics in a computer for visual projection to assist with congregational singing
- Print songs, hymns and lyrics in bulletins, programs, liturgies and song sheets for use in congregational singing.
- Record your worship services (audio or video) provided you only record live music. Accompaniment tracks cannot be reproduced. You may charge up to $4 each ($5 in Canada) for CDs and tapes, and $12 each ($15 in Canada) for DVDs and videotapes.
- Arrange, print and copy your own arrangements (vocal and instrumental) of songs used for congregational singing, where no published version is available.
- Create computer graphics, overhead transparencies, slides, or any other format whereby song lyrics are visually projected for use in congregational singing.
- Translate song lyrics into another language for congregational singing, where no published version is available.
Copyright infringement not only applies to songs and videos, but it also addresses content imported to a church’s website. According to David Middlebrook with the Church Law Group, importing content to the website that is not created by a church employee could be considered a considerable offense.
Middlebrook’s advice to prevent copyright issues is to always get permission from the copyright owner before using the material. In addition, all material should be reviewed for posting to the church’s website to ensure copyright laws are followed.
As a follower of Christ, Rose believes he bears the responsibility to follow the laws of the land. “I do my best to confirm we do not record or display songs or videos for which we do not have rights,” stated Rose.
“Small groups require a case-by-case basis, in which the church purchases a single use license to promote a movie or study.”