To Be Continued: Congregations and Copyright

Dear Ones,

I was delighted to share the UUFB Flower Communion video with the congregation last Sunday! The video was created using photos sent in by UUFB members and friends, and a beautiful meditation written by The Rev. David Bumbaugh.

Since we’ve ventured into online worship in a big way – and not just us, but virtually every congregation in the UUA – I thought I’d share a little bit about copyright.

When we share words, music, and videos in our non-recorded, in-person worship services we don’t have to worry much about copyright issues. Even sharing within a Zoom worship service is not a big deal, because it’s technically a closed meeting – even though we’re basically inviting anyone who wants to join by widely publishing the link. Broadcasting copyrighted material for which we don’t have permission via Facebook Live or YouTube is problematic.

Now, a number of my colleagues have recently written fresh material and given blanket permission for congregations to use it. The same for some UU musicians, though a few are asking for a donation in exchange for using their work. That’s only fair, because the musicians are unable to play concerts which are a big source of their income right now. Some have created many videos, but only given permission for a few to be widely shared by congregations. (Big Thanks to The Rev. Erika Hewitt at the UUA, who’s published much information for ministers and congregations!)

You might assume that anything in our hymnals is fair game. Surely, we can use those resources as we see fit, right? No, as it turns out. Many of the hymns are in the public domain, and we CAN use them as we wish. Some have copyrights held by the UUA, and permission is very easy to obtain. Others are controlled by the composer, their estate, or another publisher. Some are easy – one artist, for example, only asks that the words to her work not be changed at all.

The good news is that we do purchase a license that covers the use of most of the music we want to use. We just have to follow the terms, and we’re doing our best and depending on grace at this point!

Thank you for being here, for being part of this Fellowship, and for staying connected!
I love you. You are beloved and precious. We will get through this. Stay safe, everyone.

Rev. Lori Hlaban