On October 19, 1976, President Gerald R. Ford signed into law Public Law 94-553 setting forth the law of the land in regard to copyrights. This new law became effective January 1, 1978.
The organizations listed at the end of this article want to inform church musicians, ministers and the laity of the provisions in this statute that have particular application to the use of music and related print materials in their respective ministries.
This guide does not presume to be a comprehensive summary of the Copyright Act of 1976. It does not attempt to deal with all the issues covered by the legislation, nor does it provide answers to many of the legal questions.
A complete copy of the Copyright Law of 1976 and further information regarding the Copyright Law may be obtained by writing: The Copyright Office, Library of Congress, Washington DC 20559.
Guidelines For the Use of Copyrighted Music
Material ,CD What does “copyright” mean?
Our nation’s founding fathers determined that it was in the public interest that the creative works of a person’s mind and spirit should belong, for a limited time, to the creator. The protection of these works is called “copyright.” The United States Copyright Law grants to any copyright owner the exclusive rights to original material for a term which is equal to the length of the life of the author/creator plus 75 years. (For many songs written prior to 1978, the term is 75 years. The copyright owner is the only one who has the privilege of reproducing the work. If any other party wants to reproduce the material in some manner, permission must be obtained from the copyright owner.
Visible notice of copyrig. ,hould appear on all copies of copyrighted music. Whether on the owner’s original works or on permitted copies, the notice should be visible and contain the word “copyright” or the symbol C (for printed material) or ® (for sound recordings), the year of first publication and the name of the copyright owner.
What are the rights of copyright owners?
- To reproduce the copyrighted work in printed copies or on records, tapes, videocassettes or any duplicating process now known or which later comes into being.
- To make arrangements and adaptations of that copyrighted work.
- To distribute and/or sell printed or recorded copies of the work or to license others to do so.
- To perform the copyrighted work.
- To display the copyrighted work.
Who owns the legal right to make copies?
The original creators (authors and composers) and/or publishers, assigned agents, etc.
Do other countries have copyright laws?
Yes. Most of the world now seems to recognize the need to give incentive and protection to creative persons. Copyrighted material owned by United States citizens is protected in many other countries by these countries’ copyright laws and treaties with the United States.
What if I’m faced with a special situation?
If you want to include copyrighted lyrics in a song sheet . . . arrange a copyrighted song for four baritones and kazoo . . . or make any special use of copyrighted music which the publisher cannot supply in regular published form, the magic word is . . . ASK. You may or may not receive permission, but when you use someone else’s property you must have the property owner’s consent.
What if there’s not time to write?
Think of copyrighted music as a piece of property, and you’ll be on the right track. Plan ahead. Some publishers routinely grant permissions over the phone.
What about photocopies or tapes that are now in our church?
Immediately destroy any unauthorized photocopies, tapes, etc., and replace them with legal editions. Possession of any illegal copies puts you in the position of harboring stolen goods.
Is it permissible to:
- Make a photocopy of a copyrighted work for my accompanist in order to sing a solo?
- Print words only of a copyrighted work on a one-time basis for uses such as church bulletins or song sheets?
- Print songboo. c song sheets containing copyrighted works and use them in churches, Bible studies or home prayer groups as long as they are not sold?
- Make a transparency or slide of a copyrighted work for use by projector?
- Make copies of copyrighted music first and then ask permission?
No. Permission must be secured prior to any such uses and/or duplications.
What if I can’t find the owner of a copyrighted song? Can I go ahead and use it without permission?
No. Check the copyright notice on the work, and/or check with the publisher of the collection in which the work appears. Once you know the name of the copyright owner, write or call the Church Music Publishers Association at the address at the end of this article for assistance in locating an address or phone number. For a cost of $2, CMPA will supply a current listing of major sacred music copyright holders/publishers. Please send cash; CMPA canBut what about items that are out of print?not invoice.
But what about items that are out of print?
Most publishers are agreeable, under special circumstances, to allow reprinting of out-of-print items; but again, permission must be secured from the copyright owner prior to any duplication.
What is public domain?
If a song is in the public domain (PD), the copyright protection for the song has expired and the song is dedicated to the public for use as it sees fit with no permission being required from anyone. The absence of a copyright notice (see question 1) is one indication that a song may be PD.
What is fair use?
Fair use is not generally available to churches. It is a doctrine developed by the courts that permits portions of copyrighted works to be reproduced legally for purposes of criticism, comment, news reporting, classroom teaching, scholarship and research. In no instance does this apply to a performance. The various interest groups involved have agreed upon guidelines which constitute the minimum and not the maximum standards of educational fair use. If you are interested in a copy of these guidelines, please contact CMPA at the address at the end of this article and enclose a self-addressed stamped 6 x 9 envelope ($.50 postage) with your request.
Is it permissible to perform copyrighted religious works in church?
Yes. ‘You may perform copyrighted religious works from legal editions in the course of services at places of worship or at religious assemblies. Legal editions do not result from unauthorized duplication of relig,uus works, but to purchase one copy of religious sheet music, then make 30 copies for the choir without permission and then perform it in worship service is not legal or ethical.
Can I make an original recording of a copyrighted song?
Yes, but you must secure a recording license from the copyright owner, and pay, effective January 1, 1988, a royalty of 5′ cents per song, per record or tape manufactured. (This rate increases every two years.) This includes copies of recordings or tapes of church services, concerts, musicals or any programs that include copyrighted music.
Can l make a record or tape using a prerecorded instrumental accompaniment track?
Yes, provided you have proper permission. Two different permissions are necessary in this situation. The first is from the copyright owner of