RAM, Musical copyrights d



Musical copyrights don’t cover live performances. That’s how so many local bands can legally do shows where they cover the hits of popular artists. In the same sense, a choir or praise team can "perform" any song they want to do live without worries.

Where things get sticky is where text gets involved, or when you record an event. For example, when a church shows words to music on a screen, if the music has a current copyright, they are supposed to obtain a CCLI license to display the words. This license is very inexpensive, and I believe it’s free or almost free for small churches even. It’s more of a method to ensure the writer(s) get credit. None of the popular praise bands out there are getting rich from CCLI rights.

When you broadcast music, or even display it, you always have the legal gray area of "fair use". Technically, a church could probably get away displaying the words to a copyrighted song without a CCLI if they creditied the author and used the argument that it’s fair use, as it relates to the worship. Fair use can even be used on TV, though unless it’s live TV, it’s really stepping into the darker shades of the gray area created by fair use.

However, saying that, you should also keep in mind that most of the worship performing artists frely give their music out to churches for use. While I was in the position of directing the video for my church in Omaha, one of my best friends, who was the lighting director, built a controller to simultaneously manage a dozen I-beams and cyber lights, "smart lights" that usually require you to buy a seperate controller for each light. Anyway, while he was in the process of patenting his idea, he wanted to give a demonstration of it to the local lighting professionals in the Omaha area, and he wanted to time the lighting to a Joy Electric song. He contacted the manager for Joy Electric (a Christian Techno/Synth group) and they sent him not only the permission to do it, but also an autographed CD and a couple other goodies.

Now, not all bands and performers will be this charitable, but it never hurts to ask. If they say no to letting you use their material for free, they will likely be very reasonable.

Personally, I would just give a call to one of the larger churches in your area and ask them. If they don’t have the answer, call a local lawyer. Many lawyers will give you free advice on a subject like this. Again, like I said, there’s nothing wrong with broadcasting every classic hymn in the book. They’re all public domain. But if you’re doing new stuff, at least ask before you use it. You might be suprised at the generousity of the ones you do ask.

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