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Copyright Q&A for April 2014

Copyright Q&A for April 2014

By Christian Copyright Solutions on April 17, 2014

Here is  a question we received for our monthly Copyright Q&A feature. Answers are provided by Christian Copyright Solutions. Feel free to submit your questions to us. We answer as many as we can here on our site once a month.

Question: A woman in my church just asked me to do a special arrangement of a song for an event she’s planning. Is that OK for me to do?

Answer: The answer to your question depends on whether or not the song is in the Public Domain. If a song is in the Public Domain, you may make an arrangement and, furthermore, you would be the copyright owner of that arrangement. However, if the song is copyrighted, the situation is very different.

Copyright owners have six exclusive rights:

  • Reproduction

  • Making Derivative Works

  • Distribution

  • Performance

  • Public Display

  • Digital Recording Performance

Creating a new arrangement of a song is an example of making a derivative work—a right exclusive to the copyright owner. In order to legally create a new arrangement, you must have the permission of the copyright owner beforehand.

When you inquire, be prepared to let them know your reason for wanting to do the arrangement, how it will be used and the scope of the audience. Some indie songwriters maybe thrilled to have someone arrange their songs. Other more established songwriters with publishing contracts may decline and direct you to use versions that are already readily available for purchase.

In either case, the decision they make is within their rights. If they do grant permission, the right to make an arrangement will be incorporated into a print license, which will allow you to make copies of the arrangement, which usually requires a fee or royalty.

The Christian Copyright Solutions answers provided are information, not legal advice. For more information and resources, including fact sheets, videos and idea kits, visit www.christiancopyrightsolutions.com. Use promo code “ABOUTWORSHIP” to receive 10% off your first-time purchase of the PERFORMmusic and WORSHIPcast Licenses.

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