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The issue of Copyright law has been in the news frequently in the past year as the recording industry fights a seemingly losing battle against Internet sites where individuals can download songs. For each Napster that is shut down by court order, a dozen more Internet sites spring up to take its place. In metropolitan areas across the United States, an association of software manufacturers has taken the battle against software piracy to the airwaves by placing radio advertisements directed at disgruntled and former employees, encouraging them to anonymously report employers who fail to pay for all the copies of software that are loaded on their computers.

Most professional church workers and laypersons desire to stay within the confines of federal copyright law. While our hope is that we will always have a resource that will meet your need unmodified, we recognize the fact that the resource needs of LCMS churches are varied. Be cognizant of the potential permissions issues that arise as you contemplate reprinting copyrighted material or adapting it for your congregational use. Please do not hesitate to contact CPH's Rights and Permissions Department if you ever have a question about the copyright status of one of the publications we publish.

Churches, church workers and lay volunteers are not immune from navigating copyright issues. So if you wonder what the big deal is about copyright law, or are looking for answers to your most common questions read on.

1. What is Copyright Law?

The Copyright Act of 1976, as amended, is the federal law that governs intellectual property. It grants the copyright owner the exclusive rights to: 1) reproduce the work; 2) prepare derivative works based upon the work; 3) distribute copies of the work; 4) perform the work publicly; 5) display the work publicly; and 6) make sound recordings of the work, during the term of copyright. It prohibits others from exercising any of the above rights without obtaining the permission of the copyright holder.

2. Where did Copyright Law come from?

Current U.S. copyright law has its origins in early 18th Century England when the parliament decided that it was good for the author of a work to have the exclusive rights to reproduce that work for a period of time. With lobbying by noted Early American authors such as Noah Webster and Thomas Paine, Article I, Sec. 8 of the U.S. Constitution gave Congress the right to grant exclusive rights to copyright holders.

3. How do I know if I have to ask permission before printing a hymn in our bulletin or using it in our PowerPoint presentation?

Hymns may be covered by three or more different copyrights. While many of the ancient hymns tunes of the church are no longer under copyright protection, many of the settings and text translations may still be copyrighted. Thus, you must first determine whether you desire to reprint only the text, or also the tune/setting. After determining what you want to reprint, look in the hymnal to determine whether or not the portion you wish to reprint is covered by copyright. Lutheran Worship (LW) lists copyright holders beginning on page 969. Lutheran Service Book (LSB) and Hymnal Supplement '98 (HS98) list them under the hymn. All God's People Sing (AGPS) lists them beginning on page 272. A list of the hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (TLH) still under copyright can be found on this website.

4. Once I determine that a hymn is covered by copyright, what do I do next?

You need to obtain permission from the copyright holders to include the hymn text and/or tune in your bulletin or PowerPoint. You will need to contact each copyright holder for that permission or determine if the copyright holder is part of any licensing service to which your congregation belongs.

5. What are the licenses available for copyright permission with LSB?

With the introduction of LSB, CPH negotiated with the other copyright holders to provide licenses for use of the hymns and liturgical materials from LSB by congregations in their bulletins and PowerPoint presentations. All but a few publishers agreed to be part of the licenses. With the purchase of Lutheran Service Builder or an annual liturgy license congregations may reprint liturgical materials from LSB, LW and TLH. By purchasing an annual LSBHymnLicense.net you may reprint all but 3 hymn texts and 2 tunes from LSB.

6. If our church has a Christian Copyright Licensing Inc. ("CCLI") license or OneLicense.net, do we need LSBHymnLicense.net, the liturgy license or Lutheran Service Builder?

Both CCLI and OneLicense cover some of the copyrighted hymns in LSB but the most comprehensive license for the copyrighted hymns in LSB is LSBHymnLicense.net. Neither CCLI nor OneLicense grant you rights to reproduce the copyrighted portions of the liturgy.

7. How do I obtain permission to reprint copyrighted hymns found in LSB if my congregation did not purchase LSBHymnLicense.net?

If the copyright is held by Concordia Publishing House, you may fill out the form on this website , email a request to the Rights and Permissions Department at copyrights@cph.org, call toll-free at 1-800-325-0191 or fax at 1-314-268-1243 to obtain permission. If you email or fax, please be certain to provide the following in your request:

  1. your name, along with your organization's name, address & phone number;
  2. information on what you want to reproduce (title, composer, hymn number, page number, etc.);
  3. information on how you intend to use it (print in bulletin or permanent publication, number of copies, format, date of use, etc.).

In most cases, the fee is reduced or waived if a LCMS congregation desires to reprint a CPH copyrighted hymn in its bulletin. For hymns not owned by CPH, contact information for some of the more common copyright holders is listed in our hymnals or on our website. You may also contact the CPH Rights and Permissions Department for help in finding a non-CPH copyright holder.

8. How do I obtain permission to reprint hymns from other CPH hymnals or song books?

See the answer to question #6 above. If the song in question is a CPH copyrighted hymn and your congregation has purchased LSBHymnLicense.net, CPH grants these congregations permission to reprint our copyrighted hymn without first contacting us. Please make sure the hymn is owned by CPH and include the copyright information found in the hymnal containing the hymn. The location for copyright right information is explained in question #3.

9. Is The Lutheran Hymnal in public domain?

No. TLH is under copyright protection until the year 2036. However, not all hymns contained in TLH are still under copyright protection. View a list of hymns found in TLH that are still under copyright.

10. If our church has a Christian Copyright Licensing Inc. ("CCLI") license, may we reproduce CPH copyrighted material without seeking permission from CPH?

No. CPH is not a member of CCLI. Over the years, CPH has given LCMS churches more favorable terms for reproducing its copyrighted material than churches could have received from CCLI.

11. If the choral pieces that I want to order are out of stock, can I make copies?

In most cases, a publisher will allow you to make copies if a publication is out of stock and on backorder, provided the copies are destroyed upon receipt of the product. BUT you need to contact the publisher for permission before making the copies.

12. If we order 25 choral anthems and need 30, is it OK for us to just make 5 extra copies?

No. In this case you should call and order the five additional copies. In the event that you do not have time before choir practice to obtain additional copies from CPH, call or email the Rights and Permissions Department at CPH to ask for a license granting permission to make the five photocopies for use until the additional choral anthems are received.

13. If we purchase an anthem for the choir to sing, why can't we put the text in the bulletin for the congregation to follow without permission?

In general, CPH does not have the right to grant such permission without a fee. We intentionally keep the pricing of the anthem as low as possible instead of including the cost of reprint rights in the anthem. We often owe a responsibility to a composer to collect fees for reprinting texts in bulletins.

14. If we subscribe to Creative Worship, do we have to seek permission to reprint the material in our bulletin?

The license agreement for Creative Worship allows a subscriber to reprint most material during the three-month period that the publication covers only. Certain copyright holders will not grant a blanket license and insist that congregations obtain permission directly from them prior to reprinting or adapting their copyrighted works. In these cases, CPH attempts to provide the contact permission for these publishers.

15. Are there any copyright issues involved if our congregation audio or video tape our worship services?

If the service contains any copyrighted works, then you must seek permission from all copyright holders that are not covered by a blanket license to which your church may subscribe. CPH will normally grant permission for no fee to LCMS congregations if the videotape usage is limited to shut-ins. With the purchase of LSBHymnLicense.net, congregations now have the right to videotape those portions of their services taken from LSB for use by their shut-in, ill or elderly members only. Unfortunately, copyright holders were unwilling to expand this permission to allow these audio or audio-video tapes to be archived or distributed to members who were on vacation or just missed the Sunday service. Once they have been viewed by the sick, shut-in, and elderly congregational members, they must be destroyed or taped over unless additional permission is secured by the congregation from the copyright holders.

16. What do we need to do if we broadcast our service?

If the service is going to be broadcast on TV or radio, check with the radio or TV station and ask how to report use of copyrighted material. If not, you will need to contact a service, such as Harry Fox (www.harryfox.com), for broadcast licensing information. CPH does not handle licensing for broadcast.

17. What about putting our services on the web?

If congregations wish to distribute their services through the web, they will need to contact each individual copyright holder of the hymns, anthems, and liturgical materials used in each service for permission. Please call our copyright department at 800-325-0191 or email at copyrights@cph.org for further information regarding the licensing of CPH owned materials. As we are able, CPH exercises lenient policies in granting permission for our copyright materials in audio and video recordings of worship services.

18. How do I obtain a mechanical license?

Please fill out the form found on this website and a mechanical license will be issued. CPH charges the statutory rate as set by the U.S. Congress. However, an additional administration fee of $10 may be charged in some cases.

19. If a CPH publication is out of print, can I make copies?

Not without permission. The exclusive rights of copyright do not end when a work goes out of print. In some cases, CPH has transferred the copyright back to the composer or to another party. Thus you should always call CPH Rights and Permissions to inquire whether an out-of-print work is available for copying.

20. Do we have to get permission if we plan to adapt the material?

Yes. Preparing adaptations, arrangements and abridgements of a copyrighted text or song is considered the exclusive right of the copyright holder. Thus, you must obtain permission in advance of making such derivative works.

21. Is the Bible covered under copyright law?

With the exception of the King James Version, which is now in the public domain, most other modern translations used in our churches are still protected by copyright law. In many cases, the publishers of these Bibles have established generous reprint rights for noncommercial use that will allow a congregation to print Bible verses or chapters for no fee and without obtaining additional permission. Check the indicia page on your preferred translation or the publisher's website to see what terms the publisher has established.

22. If we purchase a Christmas or VBS program can we reuse it at a future date?

Not without first contacting CPH. Not all the songs, recitations, information, activities, etc., included with the programs are owned by CPH and you will need to obtain additional permission for their reuse or use at a date outside the year of the original program. Also, there may be a fee associated with reuse of a program itself.

23. If we purchase VBS or Sunday School material can we use the activities or songs for our Day School?

No. CPH continues to experiment with selling reproducible resources. Examples of this include recent Christmas services, CD's containing VBS songs, and certain activity books. In such cases, the cost of the master CD or program is more than it used to be. However, the overall cost to the church is less. Also, some authors/composers only grant CPH use of their material for a specific program. Therefore, the right granted is only to make copies in connection with that specific program, and not a general license for unlimited use in the future.

24. If we purchase a reproducible resource from CPH, can we share it with our sister congregation?

No, when CPH sells reproducible materials, it is only for use in your local congregation. Sharing it with a sister congregation is not permitted by the license agreement.

25. Do I need permission to use a quote or illustration from CPH materials in my newsletter, bulletin, Bible study, etc.?

Yes. Before permission can be granted for you to use a quote or illustration, we need to check to make sure CPH can grant permission for use of that particular quote or illustration. Our authors sometimes use quotes or illustrations from other sources and we do not have the right to grant others permission to use them. Also, we are usually contractually restricted as to the number of pages we can allow anyone to reproduce.

26. Why should we pay a fee for use of a copyrighted work from CPH?

It is a misconception to assume that the entire contents of a book belong to the publishing company. Publishing companies, including CPH, are held accountable by law for appropriately reimbursing copyright holders for use of their creative property. Permission fees compensate the copyright holder for the use of creative material. Since it does not represent the cost of paper, printing and shipping, permission fees are usually much less than the cost of purchasing a printed publication.

27. Where else can I go to get more information on copyrights?

For general information regarding copyright law, you can visit the Library of Congress' website at www.loc.gov.  

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