minstrel: church copyrights

Lisa and Ken Theriot lnktheriot at compuserve.com
Tue Mar 14 08:16:36 PST 2000


Timothy wrote:

I'm not aware of ASCAP "routinely" suing churches.  Singing religious music 
in church from legally bought copies is, as I understand,  not an 
infringement of the performance right.  Copyright might be infringed in 
some circumstances if copyrighted music, or copyrighted words (to the 
choir's anthem, say) are reprinted in the leaflet, or if copyrighted music 
is recorded on tape, but ASCAP doesn't license these things.  ASCAP might 
become involved, though, if the church played recorded copyrighted music in 
the  course of services, or hosted performances of copyrighted music 
outside of worship.  Can you cite any cases of this kind ?

As I understand it (with all disclaimers that implies...), you have it 
pretty much correct.  The biggest source of suits is for unlawful 
publication, i.e., printing the words.  I'm no longer a choir director and 
I don't get the literature any more, but Oregon Catholic Press used to 
publish periodical information, and they detailed the cases (gleefully, 
since after all, it's a selling point for them!).  Churches who BUY 
songbooks are licensed because it's included in the purchase price.  FEL 
used to be the biggest church-related copyright clearinghouse, and they'd 
usually do the "one-off" licensing.  ASCAP is normally only involved when 
churches host concerts and coffeehouses or where a church is foolish enough 
to print secular music in their leaflets.  I don't remember if FEL had an 
enforcement arm; even though ASCAP doesn't grant the licenses, they 
"enforce" them on behalf of represented artists.  Even on mechanicals, my 
licenses say "The Harry Fox Agency", but it's ASCAP's lawyers that will 
come calling if I don't have one.

Adelaide


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