Set an Example with Copyright Law
Avoid costly liabilities by obeying the law.

Editor's Note: This article provides a helpful overview. For a complete understanding of copyright law for churches, check out the fully updated and redesigned Essential Guide to Copyright Law for Churches by Richard Hammar, which is now available to pre-order for an August delivery.

Ministry leaders strive to set an example through their actions at every opportunity. Obeying copyright law should not be the exception. Music ministries and church websites are just a few of the areas where you are at risk for violations. It will be to your church's advantage to understand copyright law and obey it.

About Copyright Law

Ignorance is not bliss. Violating copyright law–whether its done intentionally or not–takes honest wages away from the author. Being unaware of the law is no excuse and violations can be costly.

Understand the law. Copyright laws affect much more than printed materials. Reproduction of intellectual material in any form without permission is a violation. These violations include displaying song lyrics visually, replaying TV clips and movies publicly, and copying software to other computers.

How to Obey the Law

Follow the rules. Contact the publisher for permission to reproduce materials or purchase the rights to do so. Do not edit the material and do not share your legally-acquired materials with another party for their use.

Consider a blanket license. Purchase a blanket license to get access to an entire repertoire of works. Christian Copyright Licensing International (CCLI) is a valuable resource for ministry music. The Motion Picture Licensing Corporation provides blanket licensing for films.

Adopt music and software policies. Establish clear policies regarding the proper use of music and software. Post the policies publicly and confront any violations on the spot.

Spread the word. Be a witness for doing the right thing. At every opportunity spread the word about copyright violations and challenge others to obey the law.

To learn more about copyright law, visit, or check out the fully updated and redesigned Essential Guide to Copyright Law for Churches by Richard Hammar.

This content is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is published with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. "From a Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations."


Displaying 1–2 of 2 comments


August 04, 2010  10:50am

Also check out for more information on copyright issues facing the church.

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Susan Loud

July 02, 2010  1:52pm

Thank you for addressing this issue! Many Christians are unwittingly breaking the law by using copyright-protected material. This was one of the reasons we started Churchmouse Publications ( We are a clearinghouse for all kinds of features (articles, cartoons, etc...)All of our producers are paid for their work and all copyright laws are obeyed.

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