October Music Ministry Notes

By OCUUC posted Thursday, October 20, 2011, 12:42 pm

Stop and Think Before Posting Recordings

A hot topic on the UU Musicians Network list-serve has been the licensing (or lack thereof) of “homemade” videos that folks are posting on YouTube, facebook, and elsewhere.  So I thought this would be a good time to remind and educate everyone about copyright guidelines and intellectual property rights of composers, authors, and presenters.

It’s become so easy to create videos nowadays, and we are all enjoying the ease of producing our own “live” videos of everything from our dog’s silly tricks to important ceremonies and milestones.  It’s fine and dandy to do so, but when there is copyrighted content, then we just need to stop and think before pushing the POST or UPLOAD button.

Sometimes it’s hard to know if something is copyrighted material. On a given Sunday, for instance, there might be some songs that are copyrighted, and some songs that are in the Public Domain (free to copy and distribute however you want). Here are some Public Domain songs that we have sung recently:

  • When the Spirit Says Do
  • Tis a Gift to be Simple
  • For the Beauty of the Earth
  • There is More Love Somewhere
  • This Little Light of Mine

Notice that these Public Domain songs are old Spirituals, hymns or folk songs.   The composer, if they were ever identified, are long gone now.  Copyright extends for the life of the copyright holder plus 70 years (if not renewed by their estate, etc.).  So older songs, poems, etc. are typically Public Domain.  That’s why, by the way, classical music is sometimes used in movie previews, TV shows, or commercials — because it’s FREE.

Now of the remaining works that have copyrights still attached to them, there are a few different categories to consider:

  • Works that the copyright holder has given blanket permission to use — such as “Spirit of Life,” which is OK to broadcast, copy, and distribute for any UU church service or event.
  • Works that the copyright holder has given one-time permission to broadcast, copy, or distribute, by granting a license, sometimes with a fee but sometimes without charge.
  • Works that the copyright holder does NOT grant permission to broacast, copy, or distribute.  Some artists do NOT want their work performed but by themselves or their choice of performer.

Now that you know there are copyright issues regarding any broadcasting of any copyrighted material – which includes on your Facebook page, on YouTube, on your website, or on physical CDs or videos – you have a responsibility to protect the intellectual property rights of the copyright holder by simply asking permission to broadcast their work.  I’m happy to help with this process, but it’s really quite simple. Just find the copyright holder (at the bottom of the printed work), Google them, and email them a short note asking their permission to post it.  They might say yes or no, and they might respond within a day or 2 months.  But it’s important to respect their control of the dissemination of the work, andthey get to decide.

The UUA has put together Copyright Guidelines after consulting several legal experts.  This is a murky topic, and if you ask 3 copyright lawyers, you’ll probably get 3 different answers.  But I think the best idea is to go along with the UUA guidelines since they’ve already done the work for us and have found a middle road that is workable for churches.

By the way, it IS possible to get the “copyright police” to come after you.  A Mormon church was fined $20,000 for refusing to desist using illegally copied songbooks in their worship services.  And a copyright holder can find your YouTube video and ask you to remove it because it wasn’t licensed.

Please talk to me if you have any questions or concerns about posting any creative works on the Internet, or making physical copies of music, written words, or videos.  I’m here to help guide the congregation to the most responsible use of our creative resources.


I would also like to announce that we are forming a Children’s Choir for the Christmas Eve service.  Please let me know if you are interested in participating!


We are gathering a group of tech-minded volunteers who would like to be trained to run the sound system. The trained volunteers would run occasional Sunday morning services and special events (i.e., the auction, memorial services). Please contact Beth to volunteer.

Your Director of Music Ministries
Beth Syverson
MusicDirectoratocuucdotorg  (MusicDirectoratocuucdotorg)  

Posted in Music

2 Responses

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  1. Bill Stoker says:

    Thank you, Beth, for helping clarify a confusing and often ignored issue.

    October 31, 2011 8:26 am
  2. Mike Harmanos says:

    I can’t seem to find any mention of the fine that the LDS church paid in violation of illegal copies. Is there a link available? Thanks!

    October 31, 2011 3:20 pm

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