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Copyright Q&A for December 2012

Copyright Q&A for December 2012

By Christian Copyright Solutions on December 06, 2012

Here is  a question we received for our monthly Copyright Q&A feature. Answers are provided by the CopyrightSolver.com Team. Feel free to email us your questions to copyright[at]allaboutworship.com or tweet them to @allaboutworship w/ hashtag #copyright. We answer as many as we can here on our site once a month.

Question: Is it okay for my church to create new written arrangements, like taking a song that was written for a solo artist, and arranging it for an SATB choir?

Answer: When you create a new arrangement, you are creating a “derivative work”, which is one of the exclusive rights of the copyright owner. Except in the case of songs that are in the Public Domain, before you create a new written arrangement you must have the copyright owner’s permission.

The CCLI Church Copyright License does allow you to create new arrangements under certain, specific circumstances. With this license you are permitted to make your own arrangements of songs used for congregational singing, where no published version is available. Please note that it does not allow you to create new arrangements that will be featured by your worship band, choir or ensemble. It is limited to arrangements for congregational singing.

If you can’t find the version you’re looking for in print (and the CCLI exception doesn’t apply to your situation), you’ll need to contact the copyright owner directly to secure permission. If you don’t want to tackle this on your own, CopyrightSolver can assist you through our PERMISSIONSplus Service. Just let us know the song, the author/publisher and what you want to accomplish and we’ll seek the clearances you need on your behalf.

Question: Our church has an internet performance license which allows us to legally stream our services online. Can we include new “arrangements”—like adding repeats of the chorus or a guitar solo—in our performances that will appear online?

Answer: Variations of a song that happen spontaneously during a performance are not considered to be new arrangements. Repeating a song’s chorus or letting your guitarist ad lib for several measures is not considered to be copyright infringement. However, creating a new written arrangement without the copyright owner’s consent is infringement.

Here is an example to help draw the distinction: If you want to perform harmonies other than those included in the author’s original work, you may do so if your singers are able to perform them without referencing a new written harmonized arrangement. However, if your singers do require a new written representation of the harmonies, and you want to create and reproduce a new arrangement in print, you must secure the proper licensing to put it in writing.

If you have the CopyrightSolver WORSHIPcast internet performance license, you are legally covered to stream your performances of over 16 million songs in the catalogs of ASCAP, BMI and SESAC online. However, this license grants you the rights to stream your performances, and does not include new arrangements. 

The CopyrightSolver answers provided are information, not legal advice. For more information and resources, including fact sheets, videos and idea kits, visit www.copyrightsolver.com. Use promo code “ABOUTWORSHIP” to receive 10% off the PERFORMmusic and WORSHIPcast Licenses and the PERMISSIONSplus Service.

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