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Copyright and Permissions FAQ

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This information is meant to be helpful for congregations in regard to copyrights and to provide answers to commonly asked questions about copyright permissions. It should not be interpreted as legal advice. If you are unsure if you are violating copyright law, please contact the publisher/copyright owner of the publication or consult with an intellectual property attorney.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is the Bible copyrighted?  

2. Can we reprint an article from Forward in Christ in our church’s newsletter, service folder, or on our Web site?

3. Can a church post material obtained from a book, magazine, or another Web site on its own Web site?

4. Do churches need permission to reprint (i.e. photocopy or retype) something if the copies will not be sold?  

5. Why do I need to get permission to reprint something that is out of print?

6. How much of a book can I reproduce without permission from the publisher/copyright holder?

7. If the copies are for “educational purposes,” is it okay to make copies of copyrighted material?

8. How do I request permission from a publisher/copyright holder?

9. How do I know if a song is copyrighted, and how do I identify who the copyright owner is?

10. If I’m only going to reprint the text of a hymn in a service folder and the music is copyrighted (or vice versa), do I need to get permission from the music copyright owner?

11. If our church owns enough copies of a hymnal or songbook for our pews, can we make copies of a hymn from that book for our service folder, as long as the number of copies doesn’t exceed the number of hymnals we own?

12. What license(s) is needed for a church to podcast its services on its Web site?

13. There are a lot of different online licensing services. How do we know which license our church needs?

14. Does a church need permission to make audio or video recordings of its services?

15. What about special worship services such as a children’s Christmas service? Can a church record the service and then distribute copies of that service to families?

16. Can I download the contents of a CD (audio or software) I’ve purchased onto more than one computer?

17. What are the copyrignt restrictions for Christian Worship: Supplement?

18. What are the copyrignt restrictions for Christian Worship: Electronic Pew Edition?

 

1. Is the Bible copyrighted?

Most English translations of the Bible are protected by copyright. However, most of these publishers allow churches to reprint Bible text, provided it is for congregational, noncommercial use and doesn’t exceed a certain number of verses or contain an entire book of the Bible. Contact the copyright holder for more specific information on that particular Bible translation:

 

2. Can we reprint an article from Forward in Christ in our church’s newsletter, service folder, or on our Web site?

Forward in Christ articles can be reprinted for use in a church, school, or organization, provided that copies are distributed free of charge and acknowledge Forward in Christ as the source. Artwork may not be reproduced except in the context of its article.

Articles may not be posted to a church, school, or organization’s Web site without permission; a link, however, to that article on the Forward in Christ Web site is encouraged.

 

3. Can a church post material obtained from a book, magazine, or another Web site on its own Web site?

If any part of the material is copyrighted, permission from the publisher/copyright holder must be obtained. Each publisher/copyright owner has its own guidelines in regard to Internet usage.

 

4. Do churches need permission to reprint (i.e. photocopy or retype) something if the copies will not be sold?

Yes. Congregations and schools, although not-for-profit, are still required to obtain permission for reproducing any copyrighted material. Nonprofit status does not exempt an individual or an organization from following copyright law.

 

5. Why do I need to get permission to reprint something that is out of print?

Even though a publication may no longer be in print, it is still copyrighted and is illegal to copy without permission. Also, the rights may have been transferred to the author or to another publisher, so it’s a good idea to check with the original publisher.

 

6. How much of a book can I reproduce without permission from the publisher/copyright holder?

Each publisher has its own definition of “fair use” (amount one can copy from a publication without permission or charge), so it’s best to request permission from the publisher/copyright holder first.

According to the US Copyright Office, “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.”

 

7. If the copies are for “educational purposes,” is it okay to make copies of copyrighted material?

Not necessarily. See the US Copyright Office Web site for more information on educational fair use provisions. If in doubt, contact the publisher/copyright owner.

 

8. How do I request permission from a publisher/copyright holder?

Most publishers have information on their Web sites about how to contact them for copyright permission, and most prefer those requests to be made in writing (e-mail is okay). Be sure to include in your request the book or publication you want to copy (include stock number or ISBN if possible), the number of pages you wish to copy, to whom the copies will be distributed, and whether or not there is a charge to the recipients for the copies. For permission to reprint NPH copyrighted material, please fill out an NPH Copyright Permissions Request Form.

 

9. How do I know if a song is copyrighted, and how do I identify who the copyright owner is?

The publisher of a hymnal or songbook is not necessarily the copyright owner of the individual hymns or songs. In some songbooks and hymnals the copyright information for each song is indicated at the bottom of the music (such as in Christian Worship: Supplement), and in some hymnals (such as in Christian Worship) the copyright information is found in an Acknowledgments section in the back of the book. If you are unsure, contact the publisher of the hymnal or songbook. Also, be aware that there can be multiple copyright holders for one song (for example, for text, tune, setting), and permission must be obtained from each of them to reprint the song.

 

10. If I’m only going to reprint the text of a hymn in a service folder and the music is copyrighted (or vice versa), do I need to get permission from the music copyright owner?

No, you only need to get permission for the part (text, tune, or setting) you are reprinting.

 

11. If our church owns enough copies of a hymnal or songbook for our pews, can we make copies of a hymn from that book for our service folder, as long as the number of copies doesn’t exceed the number of hymnals we own?

Even though you own the hymnals themselves, ownership of the individual songs and the rights that go along with them still belong to the copyright holders. You cannot reprint anything copyrighted without permission from the copyright holder (either directly or through an online licensing service such as OneLicense.net), even if that hymn is in the pew hymnals you have purchased.

 

12. What license(s) is needed for a church to podcast its services on its Web site?

Permission must be obtained from the copyright holder(s) of anything copyrighted within a service if it is going to be broadcast in any way, including via the Internet. This would include any copyrighted hymns and liturgies.

Most (but not all) of the hymns and liturgies from Christian Worship are copyrighted by OneLicense.net member publishers, and OneLicense now offers a Podcast License. Check the OneLicense Web site for more information on which materials that license covers.

 

13. There are a lot of different online licensing services. How do we know which license our church needs?

Be sure to check the details of the license to make sure it covers the specific copyrighted material for which you need permission (the specific hymns or liturgies you will be recording or reprinting, for example) and the specific use (audio or video recording or reprinting music in a service folder). Keep in mind that rarely will one license cover all of your copyright permissions needs.

 

14. Does a church need permission to make audio or video recordings of its services?

If a church has a license from a licensing agent such as CCLI or OneLicense, recordings (audio and/or video) of copyrighted works by the member publishers of those licensing agents may be recorded and distributed only to homebound members of the congregation holding the license. For any other recordings or type of distribution, permission for anything copyrighted must be obtained from the copyright holder directly.

 

15. What about special worship services such as a children’s Christmas service? Can a church record the service and then distribute copies of that service to families?

Permission must be obtained for anything copyrighted within the service that is recorded, even if the copies of the DVD or CD are distributed at cost or free of charge. This type of use is generally not covered under licenses such as OneLicense or CCLI.

 

16. Can I download the contents of a CD (audio or software) I’ve purchased onto more than one computer?

US copyright law prohibits the duplication of these works (including software) without permission from the publisher. Sometimes a publisher will “spell out” what can or can’t be duplicated or shared via multiple computers. Check the CD packaging or the Readme file for more detailed copyright information, or contact the publisher if you are unsure. There is one exception: Copyright law does allow the purchaser of computer software to make one “archival” copy (a single back-up copy that is to be stored and only used if the original becomes damaged).

 

17. What are the copyright restrictions for Christian Worship: Supplement?

Copyright information for Christian Worship: Supplement

 

18. What are the copyright restrictions for Christian Worship: Electronic Pew Edition?

Copyright information for Christian Worship: Electronic Pew Edition

 

For other questions regarding NPH copyrighted material or to request permission, please contact NPH Copyrights and Permissions:
E-mail NPH Copyrights and Permissions
Phone: (414) 615-5706

Mailing address:
Northwestern Publishing House
Attn: Copyrights & Permissions
1250 N. 113th St.
Milwaukee, WI 53226-3284

For permissions requests, the following form may be used:
NPH Copyright Permissions Request Form

 

 

 

 
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