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The legal and(/or) ethical protection of others creative work. There are many words, phrases, images, music, concepts, formulas, processes, and documents that are owned by individuals or companies.

On a small scale - donpt copy someone else's work.

A large scale effort - secure permission to copy others work, and give them credit.


Benefits / Why Bother

A church should take care not to violate copyright law for legal, financial, publicity, and ethical reasons. Even if copyright protection isn't relevant or has expired, attribution -- give credit where credit is due -- is appropriate, as is avoidance of plagiarism.

The copyright laws also benefit the church, as when properly used it discourages others from passing your works off as their own without approval.

See also this 2013 article by Tiffany Vail, entitled Church posts poem on website, and learns an important lesson in copyright, for additional information, tips, cautions and resources.

Step By Step Checklist

  • is other-people's work credited/attributed?
  • is it understood which materials may be reproduced and which cannot?
  • are the ministers and staff setting the right example?

Where Do You Get

  • Copyright and the Church - a comprehensive overview article on copyrights, licenses and more on the United Church of Christ website.

This link leads to a whole section on copyright and church music by The United Methodist Church General Board of Discipleship. It is well worth exploring, and includes articles on live streaming worship, printing hymns in worship bulletins, etc.

A helpful article by former MACUCC Resource Center Director Martha Butler Cook

Yes, more recent translations of the Bible are copyrighted. The New Revised Standard Version may be quoted and/or reprinted up to 500 verses without express written permission of the publisher, if done so as stated on this page by the National Council of Churches.

Sources for LEGAL & FREE pictures and graphics:

We've all done it. We need a photo to illustrate something, and we turn straight to Google Images. But keep in mind, many of the images found this way are copyrighted. Here are some sources for images that explicitly give permission for them to be used.

  • Many Flickr users choose to make their photos available for use for non-commercial purposes. Find out more here:

  • - church media shared by thousands of Christian artists. Search videos, photos, logos, church bulletins, Powerpoint graphics, etc. (many quality items are free; some require purchase)


  • Ccl licenses - reproduction rights license to many modern hymns

Do's And Dont's


  • assume that printed material is copyrighted -- don't reproduce unless:
    • you copy a small portion of the material for educational purposes
    • you copy hymns from a hymnal you've purchased a like number

Do Not

  • Play a recording of your choir performing copyrighted music on your website without permission of the copyright holder.

. Duplicate and distribute recordings of your choir performing copyrighted music without permission of the copyright holder.

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