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Q: Copywright Music for Video at Church ( Answered 4 out of 5 stars,   2 Comments )
Subject: Copywright Music for Video at Church
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: two4motion-ga
List Price: $12.00
Posted: 05 Oct 2006 09:46 PDT
Expires: 04 Nov 2006 08:46 PST
Question ID: 771016
Is it legal to use copywritten music in a video I made to be shown at our church?

We made a short video that for our church that has some songs by some
Christian artists in the background. We are planning to show it to our
congregation (and have actually shown it in the past) this Friday. The
music is from artist signed to major labels, so I would assume there
are "fair use" terms I'm not aware of. We are not going to be selling
the video or anything, although I am planning on making a few copies
for the people involved in the video.

I remember reading somewhere that any music can be used in an
independent film or video as longs as you are not selling the video.
Such as when films are shown at film festivals. I don't know if this
applies here though.

Our church does have a CCLI license, but I thought that only applied
to performing music.
Subject: Re: Copywright Music for Video at Church
Answered By: kriswrite-ga on 05 Oct 2006 11:51 PDT
Rated:4 out of 5 stars
Hello two4motion~

When trying to determine if something falls into the "fair use"
category, the U.S. Copyright Office says to look at four things:

" 1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use
is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

2. the nature of the copyrighted work;

3. amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the
copyrighted work as a whole; and

4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the
copyrighted work. "

("Fair Use," U.S. Copyright Office: )

Unfortunately, these guidelines are up to interpretation. The
Copyright Office says: "The distinction between 'fair use' and
infringement may be unclear and not easily defined. There is no
specific number of words, lines, or notes that may safely be taken
without permission. Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted
material does not substitute for obtaining permission." Nonetheless,
you can get a good idea of what would and would not be considered
"fair use" in your particular case.

First of all, a church is a nonprofit group, and you are not making
money off this educational multimedia presentation. That means it
falls into fair use.

The other question you need to ask is how MUCH of the copyrighted
music is okay to use. A good general guideline is: "Up to 10%, but in
no event more than 30 seconds, of the music and lyrics from an
individual musical work (or in the aggregate of extracts from an
individual work), whether the musical work is embodied in copies, or
audio or audiovisual works, may be reproduced or otherwise
incorporated as a part of a multimedia project...Any alterations to a
musical work shall not change the basic melody or the fundamental
character of the work." ("Fair Use Guidelines for Educational

Kind regards,

Search of U.S. Copyright Office
Google Search: "fair use"
two4motion-ga rated this answer:4 out of 5 stars
My question has a lot "grey area" so it's hard to get a definitive answer.

Subject: Re: Copywright Music for Video at Church
From: nelson-ga on 05 Oct 2006 11:10 PDT
Churches can't go around stealing music any more than anybody else
can.  "Fair use" does not allow you nto just use whole works.
Subject: Re: Copywright Music for Video at Church
From: tr1234-ga on 06 Oct 2006 06:59 PDT
If I can just toss in a few comments here:

With regard to the original questioner's comment: "I remember reading
somewhere that any music can be used in an independent film or video
as longs as you are not selling the video. Such as when films are
shown at film festivals."

You are almost certainly misremembering what you read, or you read
some bad information.  There is nothing intrinsically magical about
independent film or video that grants such projects special status
when if comes to clearing copyrights (much was written about the
challenges the indy film STRICTLY BALLROOM faced in clearing rights
for the music included in the film, for instacnce).

And just because you're not selling something doesn't mean
automatically mean you're exempt from clearing copyright either.  For
an extreme example, if a person makes photocopies of a Harry Potter
novel and hands them out for free on the street corner, that person is
still infringing J.K. Rowling's copyright, even though that person
isn't making any money off of it.

It is true that copyright and fair use are grey areas (purposely so,
but perhaps not as grey in your case as in others...) but if you're
comfortable that your use would be considered fair use, then by all
means go ahead, but be prepared for the worst-case scenario where
you're sued and would have to defend your use ("Your Honor, they
accuse me of copyright infringement, but my usage should be considered
permissible as Fair Use for the following very specific reasons...")

And if you're not comfortable with making that claim, you could always
do things by-the-book and approach the copyright holders and explain
what you're doing. Who knows? Maybe some of those copyright holders
will be happy to grant you formal permission to include the music in
your work, especially for a church. No harm in asking, right?

Setting aside all these issues of copyright and fair use, I'll also
point out the business of music licensing has evolved some fairly
complicated kinds of licensing structures (the CCLI license that
facilitates church usage of copyrighted songs is but one example). 
The comments at the earlier Google Answers question might be of
interest, but if you wind up having to talk about music licensing,
realize that there are different kinds of licenses for various
different kinds of usages (e.g. using a song in a video presentation,
using a particular recording of a particular song, etc., etc.)

You also mention your CCLI license. I think you're right that the CCLI
license itself probably doesn't apply to the kind of usage you're
talking about. But it also occurs to me that maybe the CCLI might be
able to point you in a direction for an analagous rights-clearing
service for the kind of use you're considering. Again, no harm in
asking, right?

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