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Pay the Piper
Obeying copyright law might seem burdensome and expensive, but ignoring it has an even higher cost.

Bob is the music pastor at First Church. He wants to save the church money, so several times during the year he purchases a single octavo that he duplicates 30 times for each member of the church choir. The senior pastor is advised that Bob's practice infringes upon the copyright of various music publishers and composers.

Bob reacts with indignation. "The publishers are only concerned about money!" he shouts. "I can't believe they would not let us copy music for worship services. As a matter of principle, I refuse to acknowledge that I am doing anything wrong."

The senior pastor tells Bob to continue making copies of music for the choir.

Short-Term Thinking

The pastor's actions may save the church some money in the short run, but consider the effect they will have on the publisher and composer. If enough churches engage in similar practices to "save money," the publisher will soon discover that it is not profitable to publish sacred music.

Similarly, composers receive less compensation for their labors when churches duplicate music for members of the church choir. If enough churches engage in this practice, then many composers will conclude that the remuneration from composing music is not worth the hours and days of labor. After all, not many persons can afford to work for free.

The result, from the perspective of either the publisher or the composer, may be a reduction in the quantity of available music. And, the ultimate loser in such a case will be churches themselves—deprived of music that would otherwise have been available.

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June 23, 2008
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