Copyright 101: Copyright Myth #8

by Dean McIntyre

Myth 8. We don't have the money to purchase copies.

Counting down the top ten myths, false beliefs, and misperceptions about church music copyright, none of which are true. 

Explanation:The truth is, in many churches the purchase of music for choirs, bells, children, or even the congregation is seen as an unnecessary or impossible expense. Churches will find other ways to provide music for teaching, rehearsing, and even for worship. All of these are illegal:

  1. Finding or purchasing one copy, then photocopying the number needed.
  2. Scanning an original as a pdf and making copies.
  3. Scanning an original, then projecting it onto a screen.
  4. Using an overhead projector.
  5. Purchasing a music license (like CCLI, LicenSing, OneLicense.net) and assuming that license covers choir music.
  6. Borrowing or purchasing music from another church that has been reproduced legally with a music license. (NOTE: It is legal, however, to borrow or purchase original music . . . not copied music . . . from another church and sing from those originals.)

So, what can your church do if it truly cannot afford to purchase music? Here are some suggestions:

  1. Borrow legally purchased original music from another church, use it, then return it.
  2. Contact the copyright owner of music you want to use and ask permission to make photocopies for your church's use. Be prepared to pay a fee, which may be less than purchasing all original new copies.
  3. Go to a website that offers free music to be downloaded which may then be photocopied or projected. Be sure the website is operating legally and not just offering illegal downloads. GBOD offers thousands of pieces of music for congregations, choirs, children, bells, keyboard players, and so on, that may be downloaded and copied without charge. Go to the Music Downloads section of our website.
  4. Find someone to compose or legally arrange music for your use. You may need to reimburse that person.
  5. Teach, learn and sing music from memory, without photocopying or projecting copyrighted lyrics or music.

Whatever you do, be aware that if your church truly cannot afford to purchase music for you to legally use, there is no provision of copyright law that allows you to go ahead and make copies of that music illegally and use it.

For more help, see the  Copyright and Licensing section of the GBOD website.

Categories: Copyright & Licensing

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