Music copyright questions for church website

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  • Hi-
    Please bear with me as I am brand new to the world of copyright law. I have recently voluntarily redesigned my church's website and am now managing the site. Our church has a wonderful music program and we are interested in possibly including some audio and video clips of performances on the website. What are we up against regarding copyright? Is there an additional license that we need to acquire?

    Here's what we were considering putting on the site:

    -audio clips of organ performances(our organ is the 5th largest in the world)

    -audio clips from recorded cd's of music performances which are available for purchase

    -home video clips of small (free) community concerts where students of the Music Director are performing

    Can anyone help point me in the right direction? Is there any way we could do any of these?
  • I'm sorry I didn't have time to get to your question before now.

    I would not consider myself an expert in musical performances. For now, I am going to assume that all of your performances and recordings are legal and just deal with the web site question. If you aren't sure if your performances or recordings are legal, I can either find out or find someone with more expertise than me.

    Sites that sell music often have brief clips that allow me to decide whether or not I like a song, but are not acceptable replacements for the song. That's what I think you mean by the phrase "audio clip."

    If that's what you mean by "audio clip", then I think you can safely claim fair use in any scenario. Only a judge deciding a case can make a definitive fair use determination, but there are four factors the judge will use.

    1. Character of use
    Apparently non-commercial in some cases and commercial in others. However, your organization is a non-profit and you aren't doing anything that the commercial music providers aren't doing. I'd say that this factor is probably neutral in this situation.

    2. Nature of work
    Creative. Against fair use.

    3. Amount used.
    Apparently a small portion. In favor of fair use.

    4. Market effect.
    Complicated because there are many different situations to consider. However, in every situation that I can imagine, the market effect is either non-existent, negligible, or positive. I think this factor supports fair use.

    There's no guarantee that a judge would agree, but I think you can safely do everything you want provided that the clips do not contain entire performances.

    If you have any questions about this, I will do my best to answer them or find someone who can. Also, this is an open board, so any lurkers with musical performance knowledge may respond as well.
  • No need to apologize for the time- I am grateful for your reply.

    You are correct with your interpretation of my use of "audio clips"- we were thinking of clips between 30 seconds and 1 minute- nothing longer than that.

    I know I will have lots more questions about this- thanks again!
  • It is also possible that the songs you have recorded are in the public domain, in which case you do not need to worry about fair use or copyrights at all.

    Do you know when the music is from? If you're recording classical organ music from the 17th century, for example, those pieces are not copyrighted. Anyone can record them and sell the recordings, or post the recordings online, without permission.

    In general, music written before 1923 will be in the public domain, and music written after 1923 is probably still in copyright. For music in the public domain, you can do whatever you want with the recordings. For copyrighted music, you will either need to rely on fair use, or get permission from the copyright holder if your use falls outside of the fair use exceptions.

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