Music Copyright Laws

The laws governing creative works and their permissible use vary from one country to another. The policies outlined in this section are consistent with international treaties that are applicable in most countries. For simplicity, this section refers to a creator’s rights as “copyright.” However, certain of these rights may be known by different names in some countries.

Copyright is protection given by law to the creators of original works of authorship that are expressed in a tangible form, including:

  • Literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works.
  • Works of art, photography, and sculpture.
  • Audio and audiovisual works (such as movies and videos, CDs, and DVDs).
  • Computer programs or games.
  • Internet and other databases.

Organizations/ musicians should strictly observe all copyright laws. Generally, only copyright owners may authorize duplication (copying), distribution, public performance, public display, or derivatives of their work. Using a work in any of these ways without authorization from the copyright owner is contrary to copyright policy and may also subject the organization or the user to legal liability.

A user of a work should assume that it is protected by copyright. Published works usually include a copyright notice, such as “© 1959 by John Doe.” (For sound recordings, the symbol is ℗.) However, a copyright notice is not required for legal protection. Similarly, the fact that a publication is out of print does not nullify its copyright or justify duplicating, distributing, performing, displaying, or making derivatives of it without permission.

The following questions and answers may help those understand and abide by copyright laws when using copyrighted materials at church and at home. If anyone has questions that are not answered in these guidelines, they should contact an attorney that specializes in intellectual property. They can also visit the following websites to learn more:      |       |