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How To Keep Your Christmas Celebration Copyright Compliant

By Christian Copyright Solutions on November 10, 2011

The holiday season offers churches a rare outreach opportunity into the surrounding community, as well as a holy and joyous time of celebration for their church family. But let’s be honest. It can also be the most challenging, frustrating and exhausting season for music ministers and creative arts directors.

Thanksgiving family festivities soon fade as music ministers and creative directors turn their focus to the myriad of details surrounding church Christmas programs. Trying to deal with copyright issues can be confusing and add extra stress to an already frenzied schedule.

With that in mind, here are some simple steps and guidelines that can help you navigate your holiday productions and limit potential copyright infringement for your church’s ministry.

Steps To Copyright Compliance

1) Understand and fully utilize church copyright blanket licenses. There are five basic blanket licenses for churches that simplify and save time when obtaining permissions for your activities. You can instantly purchase these licenses online and get immediate coverage for the copyrights and uses authorized by the licenses. Read more details about blanket licenses.

If you want to webcast or stream your program online, you’ll need a music internet performance license. (CCLI’s streaming license covers 200,000 Christian songs, and CopyrightSolver’s WORSHIPcast license covers 16 million Christian and secular songs.) A performance facilities and event license is necessary for most Christmas programs (PERFORMmusic license covers 16 million songs from ASCAP, BMI and SESAC.)

2) Use the P.L.A.N. system:
  • P - Prepare a list of all copyrighted materials and uses
  • L - Learn the basics on US Copyright Law and how it impacts church activities
  • A - Allow time to obtain licensing and permissions
  • N - Never use copyrighted material without permission

You can find free videos, fact sheets and articles on copyright education at www.copyrightsolver.com.

3) If you plan on recording your program (audio or video), obtain mechanical and synchronization licenses for all copyrighted music and sound recordings. (You can use CopyrightSolver’s online PERMISSIONSplus service to obtain licenses.)

4) Be sure to get signed consent and release forms from any participants (staff or volunteers) who will appear in your production. This is especially important for any children or minors.

5) Do not distribute any recorded and duplicated material (CDs, DVDs, songbooks, etc.) until all copyrighted material is cleared.

6) Don’t assume all Christmas songs are in the public domain; many are copyrighted and owned by secular companies and require permission. Click here for a list of Christmas secular songs.

7) If you need help in finding copyright owners and understanding how to get licensing, contact a copyright professional.

To save 10% on any CCS license, use promo code CKAAW11.

-Susan Fontaine Godwin

Christian Copyright Solution’s Founder and CVO, Susan Fontaine Godwin is an educator and long-time member of the Christian arts community with 26 years of experience in the Christian media industry, church copyright administration and copyright management. Susan is an author and speaker and frequently writes for several Christian magazines and online publications. She is on WorshipLeader Magazine’s editorial board and serves as an adjunct professor at the University of Mobile.

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