Learner Description: Adult church staff and volunteers who use images for church ministry purposes.


Repeating copyright symbols

Once upon a time, church services meant pipe organs, choirs, and hymnals. Likewise, church bulletins and newsletters were simple publications hacked out on typewriters by volunteers. In the space of a couple of decades, much has changed. Many churches are now saturated with media: lyrics to contemporary songs are projected on screens or large monitors with colorful background images or videos, bulletins and newsletters are full of colorful images, and even small churches often have a Web site.

However, despite the increasing sophistication of church media, many church staff members and volunteers remain unaware of even the most basic principles of copyright and fair use. Many people do a quick image search on Google, grab the first thing that looks good, and never stop to consider whether it is legal to use that image. In other cases, they may be under the false assumption that it’s okay because it’s for use by a nonprofit organization.

Before you grab the first image you find, take some time to learn about copyright.

Source: Library of congress, United States copyright office. (2011) Copyright law of the United States. Washington, DC: United States copyright office. Retrieved from http://www.copyright.gov/title17/circ92.pdf

Disclaimer: the following activity is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be legal advice. Consult an attorney if you have copyright questions.

Copyright Scavenger Hunt Activity

This activity will help you learn more about copyright, particularly as it applies to the use of images in church settings. The goal is for you to better understand what you may legally do and not do with images you may find.

Instructions: There are four “hunts” below. There are questions for each hunt. You need to visit each Web site and hunt for the answers to the questions. There is an answer key linked at the bottom of the page so you can see how you did.

Please download the worksheet document to record your answers.

[Download worksheet document: Word Format  PDF Format]

Note: All Hunt links open in a new tab or window.

Hunt 1. Copyright and the Church

Church Production Magazine Article: http://www.churchproduction.com/go.php/article/copyright_and_the_church

(Note: Since this page was created, the original article has been removed from the website. A suitable replacement has not yet been located. In the interim, an archived copy of the article is available here.)

  1. What specific exemption for churches is found in copyright law?
  2. What two threshold questions must you answer before you begin to determine if the fair use doctrine applies to your intended use of copyrighted materials?
  3. What are the four parts of the test for fair use?

Hunt 2. Fair Use Doctrine for Churches

Copyright Community: http://www.copyrightcommunity.net/churches-fair-use-doctrine

Review each of these scenarios. Is the intended use covered under the fair use doctrine or not? Why or why not?

  1. You find some peaceful, meditative photos that you would like to project as backgrounds during a prayer service to enhance the mood.
  2. A newsmagazine runs a cover story on materialism in American society. Your pastor wants to project an image of the magazine cover during the sermon so he can discuss the church's views on materialism and how congregants might respond. Is the use of the image covered under fair use, or is this a copyright infringement?
  3. Your pastor plans a sermon series built on themes from The Chronicles of Narnia. He would like to feature a different image from the recent movies on the cover of the bulletin each week to help promote the series.

Hunt 3. Using Stock Photos

iStockPhoto.com Standard License Agreement: http://www.istockphoto.com/license.php

There are many stock photo services that have thousands of images that you can buy to use for your projects. One popular service with very reasonable prices is iStockPhoto.com. However, even these services place limits on the uses of the photos they sell.

Read sections 3 and 4 of the standard license agreement. Then decide whether each of these uses is permitted under the standard license agreement.

  1. You place an archive of purchased images on the church file server so that all staff and volunteers have handy access.
  2. You use an image as a background image for song lyrics during worship.
  3. You use an image on a poster promoting an upcoming concert at the church.
  4. You use an image on an inspirational poster that you plan to sell as a church fund-raiser.

Hunt 4. Using Free Photos

Flickr Shared Worship Background Graphics: http://www.flickr.com/groups/worshipgraphics/

Some photographers want their work to be shared. They post images to various free image collections on the Web. However, even these free images may have some restrictions on their use.

  1. Which of these uses are permissible for an image from this group?
    1. You use it as a projected background in Christian worship settings.
    2. You use it on a bulletin cover.
    3. You use it on a church Web site.
  2. Do you need to give credit for your photo? If so, how do you need to give credit?

Answer key: Check your answers when you are finished.