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Copyright: Team Legalities

Copyright: Team Legalities

Editorial Team

A major component in developing excellence in your worship team is practice, practice and more practice. The practicality of making song copies for your team to rehearse, however, can present a copyright conundrum.

There’s no doubt that many worship leaders “rip” a copy of a new song, make CD copies for their team members and never think twice about it. With today’s new technology there are multiple ways to make or reproduce copies of an original copyrighted work of authorship. Remember that the “reproduction” rights (no matter how you copy or reproduce) are the exclusive right of the original copyright owner.

Here are a few examples:

1. You purchase a new worship CD recording, find a new song, pop into your computer and save as an MP3 file and then burn “x” number of CD copies and distribute them to your team.

2. Someone e-mails you an MP3 file of a new song, you post the file to your worship team page on your website (it may even be password protected) and tell your team members to download a copy of it so they can practice for this weekend’s service.

3. You scan a copy of song sheet music or orchestration and save as a PDF and e-mail the file to worship team members and ask them to print a copy for an upcoming rehearsal.

4. You photocopy an octavo and make enough copies for each member of your choir.

Jumping off a Bridge

There are probably thousands of worship leaders reproducing hundreds of thousands copies for their team members every week. It’s easy, it’s free, and it’s convenient. But what are the legal and moral implications, and what kind of message does it send your team?

Here are some tips on ways to legally provide your team with copies for rehearsal purposes:

1) Purchase one copy of each song material (CD, song audio file, chart, octavo or sheet music) for each worship team member. This may seem costly, but prior to easy access to reproduction (like the Xerox® machine in the 1950s or recent digital file sharing), this old fashion method was how copies of music were obtained. In some cases, it’s far easier to pay for each team member to download songs from iTunes® or any online music digital download service.

2) Use online services like PraiseCharts and CCLI’s SongSelect to pay for and download print music, one copy for each member.

3) Obtain licenses for making rehearsal copies from song publishers and record labels. If you’re making 25-100 copies for your musicians or singers, it’s often more practical to pay for licenses for rehearsal copies of recordings and photocopies or custom arrangements of songs (CCA at helps churches get these types of licenses.)

4) If you make a custom arrangement of a song (if it’s a non-qualified CCLI use), you will need to get a print license from the song copyright owner.

5) NOTE: It’s very difficult at this time to get authorized permission to post an audio file on your website, allowing team members to download copies. Licensing is available for the song copyright, but many record labels will not license you to download their master recording of the song.

6) Include in your annual budget the licensing royalty fees and/or additional copies for your worship team.

In some cases, it’s more cost effective to purchase one product for each member, but in other situations it makes sense to obtain licensing from the copyright owner. You may want to work with a church copyright administration consultant to evaluate your rehearsal copy needs and determine the best method of legally providing copies for your team.

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