Copyright Concerns For Houses Of Worship

Copyright Concerns For Houses Of Worship

A discussion on copyright law's impact on the playing of commercially available music such as CDs, and how it applies to houses of worship.

Last month we started a discussion on copyright law's impact on the playing of commercially available music such as CDs, and how it applies to houses of worship.

hPre- and Post- Service Usage and Copyright Laws

As in that article, I thank Susan Fontaine Godwin of Christian Copyright Solutions (www.christiancopyrightsolutions.com) for her insights into copyright law.

It should be pointed out, however, that the thoughts that follow are my own, and certainly should not be taken as legal advice. I am merely trying to prompt some thought on the subject and how it might apply to your church's services and events.

We ended last time with the mention of section 110, part 3 of the US copyright law in which the operative phrase is that it is not a copyright infringement to perform (i.e. play back, in this context) a non-dramatic recording if it is "in the course of a service at a place of worship".

The reader that prompted this discussion asked about playing such music before or after the service.

Some churches would argue that the entrance and egress times are ultimately part of their services as well. Would that stand up under the law? Right now, my impression is that we simply don't know for sure, as I'm unaware of any legal precedent (a ruling from a court case on such a matter) that would give us guidance. A church would need to be sued over the use of such material during the times when people are walking in or leaving for us to have a legal precedent to refer to. Should that happen, what would be the argument?

It seems to me that simply referring to it as a pre-service or post-service event places it outside of the "in the course of a service" clause. I would think that the complainant would merely need to show that it took place before the time the church advertises their service starting. If your website, marquee or bulletin states that the service starts at 11 AM, and you're playing copyrighted music prior to 11 AM, it's not part of your service. The post-service issue seems to be less clear-cut, as few churches post a specific end time for their services.

Some churches would argue that the entrance and egress times are ultimately part of their services as well. Would that stand up under the law? Right now, my impression is that we simply don't know for sure, as I'm unaware of any legal precedent (a ruling from a court case on such a matter) that would give us guidance.

A church would need to be sued over the use of such material during the times when people are walking in or leaving for us to have a legal precedent to refer to. Should that happen, what would be the argument?

 

 

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