2016 Plan and Budget For Copyright Compliance

This is the first in a three-part series on how churches can plan and budget for copyright compliance for all their year-round activities.

Church leaders have a brief window in early January to catch their breath and reflect on recent Christmas programs while beginning to plan for Easter productions. If you’re still wrestling with obtaining licenses for your holiday events, you understand just how complex, confusing and time consuming it can be.

So now is the perfect time to create YOUR PLAN for copyright compliance. I use a simple acronym as a guideline for planning, P.L.A.N., to understand four of the key elements for copyright compliance.

P = PREPARE policies, procedures & planning
L = LEARN the basics of U.S. Copyright Law
A = ALLOW enough time for obtaining permissions
N = NEVER assume it’s OK to use copyrighted material without licensing

Church and ministry leaders excel at planning activities, programs and events, but copyright clearances are often not included in their plans. Honoring copyrights and avoiding the risks of infringement takes intention, planning and preparation. Becoming copyright compliant is a process, and it usually takes time to turn the ship and get everyone on board.

Following the guidelines of our tested P.L.A.N. four-part strategy, you will be able to develop practices that help your organization become copyright compliant. You can find much more detail on how to P.L.A.N. by downloading CCS’s Free eBook, “SOLVE THE PUZZLE OF COPYRIGHTS: Six Steps to Learning How to Do Music Right,” in which Chapter 5 focuses on “Planning and Budgeting for Copyright Compliance.”

The right formula for compliance starts with your organization’s leaders implementing POLICIES, PROCEDURES and PLANNING for employees and ministry departments. It’s important to note that copyright compliance is a process, and it takes time to turn the ship. It does need to start from the top down in order to set the bar for compliance and how the senior leaders and staff are going to reach the goal of honoring copyrights.

One of the important foundational elements for copyright compliance is implementing Employee contracts and handbooks that address specific areas copyright compliance, and the responsibility and requirement of all employees to agree to not use copyrighted material without obtaining permission.

Be sure that you document your policies, so that all staff members and volunteers understand the requirements. Take a step back and get the full picture of what copyrights you may be using each year. Since various departments or ministries may use copyrighted materials throughout the year in different ways, team leaders should be held responsible for adhering to the church’s policies.

Here are three important keys to success:
Top Down Policies – Communication from the top down regarding commitment to honoring copyrights and changes in policies and procedures.
Given Authority – make sure your senior leadership communicates that a designated person has the authority to say “Yeah” or “Nay” on use of copyrights and what procedures need to take place.
Centralized Control – some internal check-off system or procedure for obtaining approval of copyright use. You may implement an application for internal communication and logging of copyright permissions.

In our next article, we will focus on how to prepare, plan and budget for copyright clearances throughout the year.

About Christian Copyright Solutions: CCS’s quest is to help churches and Christian ministries “do music right.”  CCS is an expert on church music copyrights and our primary focus is providing licensing and clear educational resources to churches, as well as representation, administration and advocacy for copyright owners. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook. The information contained herein is for informational purposes only, and is not legal advice or a substitute for legal counsel.