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Old May 17th, 2015, 05:58 PM   #1
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Copyright re: church services

A small local church has approached me about making either audio or audio+video recordings of their local services, so that they can be distributed to shut-ins and other members who are not present at the service. They would not necessarily be available to the public (via EweToob, etc.) although that question did come up. The basic intent is for essentially private one-to-one distribution, via CD, DVD, or possibly internet access from a site that is not advertised to the public.

The content would be speaking by the local priests, and singing of purely religious music by the choir and/or the congregation. As far as I know, no pre-existing "audio-visual material" would be played back as part of the service that is being recorded.

I'm sure that copyright and performance rights enter into this somehow, but from the little that I've read this afternoon, some exemptions seem to exist for performance (e.g. singing hymns) as part of a religious service. However, I have not found any discussion about recording and subsequent limited distribution.

Aside from saying that the church and I should consult an attorney, does anybody have experience with this specific question?

Thanks in advance.
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Old May 17th, 2015, 06:31 PM   #2
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Re: Copyright re: church services

CCLI offer licensing services for many of the things you are asking about.

Note that the speaker's presentation is probably something they created themselves, and they would, by default, own the rights to the sermon/homily/whatever. So, presumably, they would grant license to distribute audio or video recordings of their presentation.

Music, OTOH, is almost certainly owned by somebody else. CCLI offers licenses for using protected music in a variety of ways, including live streaming. However they do NOT offer license services for distributing VIDEO RECORDINGS of protected music. You can buy compulsory licenses at statutory rates for "mechanical" (i.e. audio-only) recordings (like CDs, etc.) from Harry Fox However at least in the United States there is no similar quick convenient, or sensibly-priced way of licensing protected music for distribution of VIDEO recordings ("sync license").

Now, if you put them up online (like YouTube, et.al.) there seems to be different rules that apply. I've never completely understood how YouTube can get away with distributing all that protected content, but there it is available online, literally millions of hours worth. You can't argue with reality.

YouTube makes it even easier because you can stream your events live online using YouTube (free!), and they will automatically record the stream and make it available for viewing later, on-demand. You can't argue with that either.

My understanding is that you may NOT legally distribute (even privately, even for free) recordings of protected works for which you do not have permission ("license"). You can certainly distribute (live-stream, on-demand online viewing, DVD disks, etc.) things like the pastor's sermon because presumably the copyright-owner (the pastor) is giving you explicit permission ("license"). But you almost certainly do not have similar legal permission for protected music.

Does that mean nobody out there is distributing DVDs of entire church services (or any other public events), including protected music? Of course not. They just aren't doing it strictly legally.
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Old May 17th, 2015, 07:38 PM   #3
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Re: Copyright re: church services

Mr. Crowley, thank you for that detail. That is pretty much what I imagined, so, based on your answer there seems to be no simple, inexpensive solution for video.

I have asked my intermediary contact to schedule a meeting with the priest. This is a congregation that calls itself Russian Orthodox, but I'm told they do not report to the patriarch in Russia. I want to take a look at their hymnnal to see what sort of copyright information I can find. It seems at least slightly possible that the material is not licensed by "the big three" in the USA. Perhaps it's all hundreds of years old and public domain; however, if someone reprinted it last year, does that mean a new copyright went into effect as of the printing date? Do we need to perform from yellowed parchment to be safe?

Personally, I think an audio recording (or stream) would serve their purpose, but I suppose I may as well explore all the possibilities, even if only as an educational experience.

If anyone else has relevant experience, please don't hesitate to chime in.

Thanks again.
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Old May 17th, 2015, 08:06 PM   #4
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Re: Copyright re: church services

Yes, it seems likely that much of the liturgical music may actually be PD by virtue of its original publication date being back in the 18th or 19th centuries. Tchaikovsky, for example. However, there is still some music written by more contemporary composers such as Sergai Rachmaninoff who died in 1943 and Pavel Chesnokov who died in 1944.

I love listening to and singing that Eastern Orthodox choral music. Especially with a good bass section and maybe even an oktavist or two.

Remember that even PD music isn't automatically free to use. Most older music is only available in modern EDITIONS because the old scores are difficult to read by modern musicians. And the modern editiion may very well be copyright protected. Of course a church with a history of several hundred years may have its own internal copies that are not in the mainstream copyright mechanism.
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Old May 17th, 2015, 08:49 PM   #5
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Re: Copyright re: church services

My first exposure to Russian Orthodox Easter service was nearly 50 years ago, and I still recall how the music made my spine tingle.

And the Rachmaninov all-night vigil is certainly a striking piece of music. Should we assume that's under copyright? Perhaps a more recent edition? Yet I find it readily on YouTube, complete with surface noise from the LP. The world of copyright is a strange and convoluted one, indeed.

Unfortunately the church that has approached me now is a relatively young congregation, probably less than 25 years old. So it's unlikely that anything in their library is older than that. Clearly a lot will be unclear until I've had a chance to talk with the priest.
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Old May 17th, 2015, 10:25 PM   #6
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Re: Copyright re: church services

Perhaps you need to identify the 'blocks' for this production..

1. The content, The people that physically write the words and stand up there in front and deliver it to the 'in house' people.

2. The ownership of that content.... and the pieces that actually make up that program.

3. Recording of that event, The use of cameras and recording equipment to get this onto a media for storage.

4. Distribution, The copying and distribution of that content, and any copyright issues.

If you are dealing with items 1,2 or 4, go see a lawyer and create some 'legal' documentation re ownership.

If you are dealing with just item 3 then you job is simple as recording someones event, the content is NOT yours, and doing anything apart from handing it to the 'owner of that content' it is NOT allowed. The lines often get blurred when churches use in house people do do work.

Think about how it would be handled if an outside video production company was hired to supply the gear / labour for a recording of an event.
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Old May 17th, 2015, 10:41 PM   #7
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Re: Copyright re: church services

Brian,

I think that does cut to the chase. Some of the content is created by the priest; he owns it; he can therefore permit recording, duplication, distribution, broadcast, etc.

The big question here is the ownership of the music. I hope to meet with the priest, and look at the hymnals in use, to clarify that.

I do not belong to this congregation so I am definitely a "contractor" in this instance. So I think that, if the music is not in the public domain, in theory I can't even hand the recording to the priest after the end of the service.

In the event that a lot of the music is under copyright, then I'm also hoping to find some special religious loophole, that would permit us to provide audio (possibly with video) of the service, at least to church members who are unable to attend a given service. I have read that US copyright law permits a few exceptions for worship, but I did not see this specific situation listed among them. Australian copyright law is undoubtedly different.

Maybe I could distance myself from this mess if I just specify and/or install the equipment, and train someone from the congregation to use it to record the sermons. Then hopefully they will use it only for legal purposes, but I won't even be present so I'll be completely ignorant of what's going on.
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Old May 17th, 2015, 11:24 PM   #8
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Re: Copyright re: church services

"Copyright" is a rather large "bundle" of rights. There are the original rights of the composer and lyricists, which are frequently sold to a publishing company. There are rights of publication (selling copies of the score, etc.), and rights of arranging (right to arrange is frequently granted on the provision that the new arrangement automatically belongs to the original rights-holder). And in the UK, there is an additional right for the engraver who actually creates the graphical representation (score) of the music.

And the right to "performance" which, at least in the US, is waived for educational use in a school, or for religious use in a place of worship. "Performance" also includes playing music (live or prerecorded) on radio/TV (and online). And also playing background music Muzak/("elevator music") in offices, shops, restaurants, etc. And, of course live performance in any kind of "public" audience.

There is no specific "right to record", but there are certainly restrictions on what you can DO with the recording (and who owns the recording). And remember the rights of the musicians and performers. And there is certainly a right to distribute recordings, whether physical or virtual (online). And another right to distribute recordings joined with images (sync license for film/video).

it can get pretty complex. Rather a "full-employment" scheme for attorneys, not unlike tax law.
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Old May 18th, 2015, 01:24 AM   #9
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Re: Copyright re: church services

Frankly, even if you try your hardest, there is no chance of doing this 100% legally! even if you try to. The best you can do is cover the critical areas. Unless they have downloaded all the music and words from the net, all commercial products have a copyright notice on them. So these things, with effort and expense can be cleared. It's the intangible rights you will potentially have trouble with. Anything specifically designed for religious use rarely has rights issues as the originators want it to be used as widely as possible. The priest owns the rights to his words but also wants them spread as wide as possible. Religion wouldn't have worked if disciples and prophets charged people for using their copyright works! However, how about that person who sings loudly and distinctively out of tune? They have a right in their performance which, if the clip appeared on you tube in a derisory way could be an issue.

All this said, churches here in the UK have made services available on cassette tape for years, and now by the net and to my knowledge despite being possible, nobody has ever taken legal action even though they could.

Frankly, with good intentions, I suspect the simplest thing to do for the church, would be to take the small risk and not worry. I've done a few jobs for charities where I am a little dubious about the rights status, so I simply make sure in all communications I gently make it clear clearances are their responsibility. I've been advised here that you actually cannot absolve yourself in this way, but it gives you some backup if it goes wrong, and I can take that small risk for good causes. I can't see it good for a rights holder to take a decent cause to court, so that's my stance.

If they wish to be 100% legal then it brings with it huge complications.

Edit

I just checked a couple of church music books I had laying around from a job, and the copyright notice is very clear. Churches simply must be ignoring them. One actually says all public performances prohibited, yet it's songs for people to sing! CYA!
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Old May 18th, 2015, 02:41 AM   #10
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Re: Copyright re: church services

A couple points...

Harry Fox agency has traditionally done only mechanical licenses (for CDs, etc), but lately I've seen a button on their website for getting sync licenses. I haven't used it yet so don't know how smooth or simple the process is, or what it costs. you might want to check with them.

Second, I record high school music performances and in that case, the music director *legally* is allowed to have/keep a copy of their performances as a means to help the student musicians learn how to improve their performances. I wonder if the same applies to the person saying the sermon or to the music or choir director. I would suspect it does not apply to distributing the entire service to the homebound.

Third, in our church, they project lyrics to all the songs and each one clearly shows a copyright at the bottom. I suspect all the songs are copyrighted by either the composer or arranger.

Lastly, FWIW, in getting licenses for our high school band performances, I've found that roughly half the pieces are not even available at hfa so I have to go directly to the publisher. And roughly half of the publisher don't even ask for the statutory fee but let us use their pieces for free. Much better for a not for profit like our high school but much more time involved.

Good luck!
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Old May 18th, 2015, 09:55 AM   #11
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Re: Copyright re: church services

Quote:
Originally Posted by Roberto Diaz View Post
Harry Fox agency has traditionally done only mechanical licenses (for CDs, etc), but lately I've seen a button on their website for getting sync licenses. I haven't used it yet so don't know how smooth or simple the process is, or what it costs. you might want to check with them.
Quote:
eSynch makes licensing songs you've combined with visual images or videos, such as a wedding, corporate, or personal website video, background music on websites, or in a film that will be shown at film festivals, simple.
eSynch is limited to non-commercial use ONLY. eSynch cannot be used to license music for use in videos that will be uploaded to a third party website including YouTube and Vimeo.
http://www.songfile.com/esynch.html
Quote:
Third, in our church, they project lyrics to all the songs and each one clearly shows a copyright at the bottom. I suspect all the songs are copyrighted by either the composer or arranger.
Everything is copyright by default as soon as you write it down and/or record it. If you want to relinquish your rights, you can explicitly place it in the public domain. And if you want extra legal protection then you can register it with the government agency. I believe this is the case in all Geneva Convention countries.

CCLI was formed originally specifically for the use-case that Mr. Diaz is citing. That is: projection of lyrics in a public meeting, and/or publishing the lyrics in a handout to the audience. If you look carefully, you will see citation of the CCLI license number, not just the copyright info.
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Old May 18th, 2015, 04:43 PM   #12
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Re: Copyright re: church services

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul R Johnson View Post
Frankly, even if you try your hardest, there is no chance of doing this 100% legally! even if you try to.
Bang on there.

Quote:
Anything specifically designed for religious use rarely has rights issues as the originators want it to be used as widely as possible.
Not so, I'm afraid, as I think you acknowledged in the edit.

I know of many churches who record/stream whole church services including music, but none of them has been able to explain to me (and I have asked quite a few) how they acquired the rights to do this. Their standard CCLI licence is restricted to making recordings for those unable to attend, and does not cover putting them up on the internet for anyone to see. Just think - worldwide distribution (for that's what we are talking about if it is publicly accessible) of performances of copyright music for no extra fee, how likely is that?

For what it's worth, I record sermons, readings and prayers (audio only) every week and the recordings are distributed on CD and by Dropbox (link required). No problem.
(Our use of the copyrighted translation of the Bible is covered). :-)

Recording and uploading music is a minefield of copyright issues. Fine if you have production staff to sort it out like the BBC but even there, it's usually not worldwide streaming.

Quote:
Edit

I just checked a couple of church music books I had laying around from a job, and the copyright notice is very clear. Churches simply must be ignoring them. One actually says all public performances prohibited, yet it's songs for people to sing! CYA!
Unfortunately, churches are among the worst offenders for breaches of copyright - downloading pirate scores/lyrics and the 'buy one copy and photocopy another 30' habit to name but two.

However, their Church Copyright Licence (if they have one) will cover 'performances' of music during services.
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Old May 18th, 2015, 05:30 PM   #13
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Re: Copyright re: church services

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Originally Posted by Colin McDonald View Post
However, their Church Copyright Licence (if they have one) will cover 'performances' of music during services.
They do not need a "public performance" licence for religious worship events. That is a long-standing exemption dating from Common Law, IIRC.

Quote:
You do not currently require a PRS for Music or PPL licence to play or perform music as part of your regular services, weddings or funerals (defined as Acts of Worship), provided that no entry charge is made. You do not require these licences for rehearsals.
CCLI for Churches Playing / Performing Music in Church
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Old May 19th, 2015, 01:26 AM   #14
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Re: Copyright re: church services

Richard, the PRS statement is true (I'm a producing member) BUT only applies to music producers that they represent. Music produced , as in composed and perhaps performed on CD, by a non-member is NOT exempt and you have no easy way of knowing. There is also the famous clause '7f' in the agreement that allows a member to withdraw certain works from PRS control. In the UK this mainly applies to music that suddenly gets put in a musical, or used in high profile productions. The rights holder then can deal direct for a better revenue stream, with full control and no middle man! Abba is a good example at the moment, and many Disney products. I'm guessing but the US will probably have a similar system. If the CD says No Public Performance, then here, use in a church could be ok, but not a certainty.

Damn complicated.

As has been said plenty of time, copyright exists automatically, and only gets modified with permission.i get occasional emails from people wanting to use a track for a good cause, and I always say yes. The agreement with PRS does actually say I can't do that!
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