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Church Membership Directories and the Copyright Law

A federal appeals court ruling is instructive.

Olan Mills, Inc. v. Linn Photo, Inc., 23 F.3d 1345 (8th Cir. 1994)

Background. Many churches prepare pictorial directories of church members. These directories are an excellent way for members to get to know other members, especially in larger congregations. Often, an outside company is used to make all the appointments and arrangements, take the photos, and prepare the directory—at no cost to the church. Individuals and families that show up for their photo session typically are given a free copy of the photo that the company selects for the church directory. The company is paid by additional orders it receives from individuals and families.

A potential problem. Some members attempt to save money by taking their free photo to a local film developer for additional copies. Other members purchase a package of photographs from the church directory company, but later (in some cases many ...

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Posted:
  • February 1, 1995

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