A Word about Copyrights

“Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act.” Proverbs 3:27

by Tammie Stevens, GLEANINGS Editor

A few years ago I was invited to do music for a Healing Mass sponsored by one of the prayer groups in our region. In preparation for this ministry, I asked if they had copyright permission for song sheets (so I could create one under their license). They did not, and didn’t know they needed one. I’ve found this is often too common among our groups. I’ve had people ask me if they could use a song sheet from a Healing Mass for their prayer group or event. When I told them they needed to get their own permission they asked, “but what if we only make three copies?” It doesn’t matter how many or few copies you make if you don’t have proper permission to do so. This is one of those instances where ignorance cannot be bliss. We must operate with integrity and that means knowing what the law is.

The copyright law in our country protects many things: books, songs, photographs, art, recorded music, movies, etc; and outlines exactly what the word means – identifying who has the right to copy. “To copy” means in any form, both in print and digitally. It protects someone’s intellectual and creative work. Even the articles in our newsletter are copyrighted and may not be reused without permission. This is to protect the integrity of the articles and teachings. From an evangelistic point, whenever we are asked by someone to reprint an article it lets us know that people are being blessed in another part of the country or the world through the work of our newsletter.

As an organization WWCCR has a copyright license to create song sheets, and PowerPoint slides (yes, those require permission as well). However, the Healing Mass I mentioned was not a WWCCR event so, as a musician, I used my own personal license that I obtained to do ministry in other places. It is easy and inexpensive for any group or individual to acquire the permission to create aids for worship for those they serve (see how at the end of this article).
Ultimately, knowledge of and obedience to copyright laws are not simply a matter of “the law” but also of respect and care for our Christian community. In Luke 10 Jesus sends out the 72 with instructions to take only what they need. They are encouraged to rely on the hospitality of those with whom they are sharing the Gospel. Verse 7 says: “…eat and drink what is offered to you, for the laborer deserves his payment.”

We are blessed by individuals who share the fruit of their prayer, study and sacrifice. Abiding by copyright laws is a way to care for those, whether in our community or abroad, who are serving the Lord through the gifts that He has given them and allowing them to be “laborers who deserve their payment.”

The internet has made it increasingly difficult for people to know what they can “use” and many have copied text of songs, photos, graphics or other works of art on the web without the permission of the owner. Just as the person or group who put the information on the internet were in error, so are we if we then “copy and paste” it without permission. So, how do you know what you can use?

For graphics and photos make sure that they are listed as “Royalty Free.” They may have a cost attached to them but this means that the owner has given permission for them to be made available and used. We obtain almost all the graphics for our newsletter through an annual paid subscription to ChurchArt Online (www.churchart.com) and it is well worth it.  (There are other resources for graphics such as Dreamstime or Thinkstock, just make sure you’re looking for “Royalty Free”)

There is no single company that can give copyright permission for everything and it is important to check each song to make sure it is covered. Just because an author is unknown, does not mean that it is Public Domain and beyond copyright laws. Here are a couple places to start looking:

Many, if not most, of the early prayer meeting songs and most of the contemporary praise and worship are available through Christian Copyright Licensing Inc. (CCLI). Their website, www.ccli.com outlines what is permissible and what is not (see below).

Oregon Catholic Press also has online tools to assist with copyrights www.ocp.org/products/onlinetools. They cover much of the liturgical music as well as some praise and worship through their Spirit and Song hymnals.

CCLI offers the following information about:
General questions about copyrights
To get a copyright license from CCLI
A resource for most praise and worship/prayer meeting songs

To get copyright information from Oregon Catholic Press
To get copyright information from GIA Publications, Inc
Two resources for liturgical songs familiar from their use at Mass

For information on songs and hymns that might be in the Public Domain Click here