In the true spirit of this season filled with illusions, legends, tricks and all things eerie, we are kicking off a series that tackles many myths surrounding copyrights. You don’t want to be caught off guard or tricked by common copyright misconceptions!
The use of copyrighted material within the Church is often a confusing subject with many myths surrounding their use. In this series, we will highlight and address some of the most common myths we hear and shed light on what doesn’t need to be a scary subject.
If I use only a short piece of copyrighted material; such as snippet from a feature film in a church production, a paragraph from a book in a sermon, or 10-seconds of a song in a video clip, I don’t need to get permission.
In most cases, the length of a recording, or any copyrighted material, does not alter the requirement to obtain permission from the copyright owner. In some cases, it may impact the cost or rate of the license, but it does not exempt you from first asking and receiving copyright clearance from the owner before using it.
Some may argue that the U.S. Copyright Law’s Fair Use doctrine allows for using a small portion of a copyrighted work without permission, but this doctrine is quite complicated in its application and we recommend that you either obtain legal advice from an attorney about your particular situation or read this article on Fair Use by Brock Shinen, Esq. before assuming it applies to your situation.
There are some pretty interesting court rulings that have found in favor of the copyright owner for use of as little as 1% of copied material, as well as 29 seconds of a 40-minute copyrighted musical work. Also, remember that Fair Use is a defense, and implies you may have to defend your position on Fair Use in a court of law.
Regarding the intent of the U.S. Constitution, Shinen states:
Congress created the Fair Use doctrine, however, to allow people and institutions to exercise the rights of a copyright owner for the purposes of criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship or research. As you might guess, the exception was probably carved out to enable news organizations and education institutions to use copyrighted material for the benefit of the public. The Fair Use doctrine, however, has grown well beyond its original purpose and now plays a significant role in other venues and industries.
Do you have a myth you’d like us to solve? Or a question you would like us to tackle? Leave a comment below or shoot us an email and we’ll address in our next post. You can also talk with a copyright expert by calling 1-855-576-5837 or chatting with us online.
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, and YouTube. The information contained herein is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice or a substitute for legal counsel.