January 11, 2013
As part of our mission to educate the Christian community about copyrights, we have posted articles from time to time about churches being sued for alleged copyright infringement (one for as much as $3 million). We have also sometimes been criticized for using “fear tactics” to sell our services.
I have worked with church leaders for 26 years focusing on copyright education and licensing solutions to assist them in honoring copyright owners. I am frequently asked whether or not any churches have been sued for copyright infringement. Although I believe that the ethical and moral reasons to honor copyrights should be the main motivating factor in church policies, there are still many church leaders who are more concerned about whether or not they are at risk for legal action. At the same, there are many more church leaders, who voice a strong moral conviction to do the right thing and obtain proper licensing for use of copyrighted materials.
There are many occasions when churches are sued or legal action is taken, but they choose to settle out of court with fines or financial penalties paid and no one is the wiser. As a result, I believe it's all the more important to let churches know about specific situations where churches have been sued, because we want them to understand the serious reality of potential legal consequences.
For example, I recently spoke with a ministry filmmaker who was in the midst of trying to clean up a “licensing mess” for an earlier project that may prove to be very costly. A ministry may, in fact, be sued, or they may end up having to pay very high royalty fees to obtain licensing for products after it has been manufactured and released. Either way, it’s important for churches and ministries to understand the potential consequences of not obtaining proper licensing before using copyrighted material, whether it involves lawsuits and fines, or payment of high royalty fees.
Part of CCS's mission is to educate the Christian community regarding use of copyrights, while providing licensing solutions, such as the WORSHIPcast and PERFORMmusic licenses. We understand that we are not able to provide all the solutions, so we want the Christian community to be aware of all practical solutions to be copyright compliant. Our desire is to serve churches in honoring copyright owners and avoiding legal risks and liabilities.
Do you think it is appropriate and helpful for Christian leaders to be aware of lawsuits that have been filed against churches or ministries for alleged copyright infringement? Comment below.