We know the world of copyright can be a bit complex and overwhelming especially when it comes to worship. In an effort to help Catholic parishes become better stewards of their resources, while at the same time ensuring artists are being compensated justly for their work, we at WorshipNOW have spent some time diving deeper into the copyright laws specifically related to projection.
Copyright law provides a copyright owner several exclusive rights, including the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, display or perform a work. Typically, in order to use a work in one of these ways, permission or a license must be obtained from the copyright owner. However, there are several statutory exceptions to this rule. One such exception applies specifically to use of a copyrighted work during worship. According to the Copyright Act, the following activities are not considered an infringement:
17 U.S.C. § 110(3): “Performance of a nondramatic literary or musical work or of a dramatico-musical work of a religious nature, or display of a work, in the course of services at a place of worship or other religious assembly.”
The above exception is narrowly worded which required that we carefully examined the meaning of the term “display” to understand whether projection of song lyrics during a worship service falls within the scope of this language. The Copyright Act defines “display,” as follows:
17 U.S.C. § 101: “To ’display’ a work means to show a copy of it, either directly or by means of a film, slide, television image, or any other device or process or, in the case of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, to show individual images nonsequentially.”
In summary, projecting lyrics of a legally obtained copy to be viewed by the assembly in a single location during a religious service does not constitute an infringement. As a result, neither written permission or a license from the copyright holder needs to be obtained for this activity. However, the retyping of lyrics into some other medium (such as a PowerPoint slide) is undeniably making a reproduction of the work and is not legally permissible. As noted earlier, the reproduction right is one of the exclusive rights of the copyright holder. The worship exception explicitly addresses the display right not the reproduction right.
Lastly, "display" does not include the right to record or stream the projection of lyrics. For streaming purposes, one must obtain either written permission from the copyright holder or a license from CCLI or OneLicense. For more information about the policies of other copyright holders we recommend contacting them directly.