Podcasting Church 101109

I’ve had an idea for a book in my head for a few years now. Since there is a challenge afoot, I started, November 2, 2010, to write that book. This blog will contain the very rough draft and I hope I’ll get a chunk of it out this month. No guarantee I’ll write everyday, but I hope this won’t be the last entry.

Copyright (yours and others)

Romans 13 is an interesting chapter. It’s one you wouldn’t expect in light of the persecution that early Christians faced. There in black and white the Apostle Paul talks about the law. You’d expect him to talk about just vs. unjust law. You’d expect talking about civil disobedience or when it’s okay to break the law. He had the example of Daniel from the Old Testament. There were people through out Jewish history that violated unjust laws to follow God.

That’s not what Paul wrote, though. He talked about trusting governing authorities and following the law. This wasn’t God’s law he wanted folllowed; it’s man’s. He talked about governing authorities as being under God’s authority and doing their jobs with His blessing. He say that those who do break the law do so with in fear because they justly deserve punishment.

I’m a child of the 20-21st century, though. I’ve always heard “Challenge Authority!” I’ve heard discussions of unjust laws and civil disobedience all of my life. The Jim Crowe laws before the civil rights movement are a great example of unjust laws. There are other examples, but that’s the one that springs to mind. I think Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was right to oppose them. That’s not what this chapter is about.

This chapter is about copyright. It’s a series of laws. To hear some talk, you’d think it was the most important thing in our society. Others couldn’t disagree more. For them, copyright is meant to be broken. For them it’s onerous and often abused. I’m not here to debate which it is. I’m just going to talk for a moment about what we’ll agree on.

Let me point out that I’m not a lawyer. I don’t play one on tv or on my podcast, so take this not as legal advice, but as information from a tech guy on ways to avoid problems.

Truth about copyright #1: It’s the law

Whether you like it or don’t, the law (at least in the U.S.) says that people who create things have certain rights surrounding those things. We’re in a strange place in history where it’s easy to violate these rights. It wouldn’t be difficult for me to take any cd in a store and reproduce it to my hearts content and sell it. It wouldn’t be hard to edit it to make something new. It wouldn’t be hard to combine it with video. Putting it onto a tape wouldn’t be hard either (if I could find a tape and a tape recorder). It’s not hard to play it on my website or in a public place. None of these things are hard, but they are all defined by our laws as illegal.

In only one of the examples above did I say that you made any money directly from what you were doing. I’ve noticed that since this is a misconception–that making money is what makes an activity illegal–the FBI warnings on movies are starting to say that you don’t have to make money to violate the law.

Unless you get permission from the original author or the company that owns a work, there are very few things you can do until that work is in public domain. There are exceptions, but if you want to stay within the law, that’s a great guideline. Are you making copies of your favorite bands for friends? Don’t. Are you using someone else’s video as the basis for your own? Don’t. Are you remixing their media into something of your own? Nope, don’t do it.

Truth about copyright #2: The Bible says not to break the law

Take a moment and read Romans 13. It’s fourteen verses long. In fact, the ones that pertain are only the first seven. We’re not talking about a law that treats people unfairly or outlaws our faith. We’re talking about a law that guarantees that if you make something, you have the right to determine how it’s used and to get paid when other people use it.

Look at verse seven especially. It’s about paying what you owe. If you take, modify, distribute, or perform their work, the law says you owe them money. It seems pretty straight forward to me.

We won’t be discussing the use of copyrighted works in worship so there are some exceptions that we won’t talk about. The only exception I can think about for podcasting is called “fair use”. You might be tempted to call whatever you want to do “fair use”, but don’t. I won’t go into all the possibilities, but suffice it to say that the less money you make on it, the less of it you use, the more altruistic and not harmful to the author financially your use is, the more likely it’s fair use, but that’s still not a lock.

How does this affect me?

You might be planning on creating a podcast of the pastor’s sermon and think that you’re fine. If the pastor writes and delivers the sermon, and tells you to podcast it, that’s permission, right? Yes…and no. Yes, what your pastor wrote (unless it’s derivative from copyrighted material like another pastor’s work) is free for you to distribute as you see fit. What if he used a poem, movie clip, or other work in his sermon? Hmm. That’s different.

In that case, you have two choices. You can get permission or you can edit it out. If you just use audio, edit so that you can’t hear what’s missing. Video is more difficult because you need to cover up cuts with a change in size or angle of 30%+ or a shot of something different. An audience shot, does this and helps the viewer feel like they’re in the room.

Getting permission is somewhat harder. It means either tracking down the artist or having the appropriate license. Either way, it usually costs money. Sometimes you’ll see a nice person who doesn’t charge you for permission, but this is the exception and not the rule. It usually takes a few weeks, too. Please don’t try to bury your head in the sand and hope no one notices. If they do, you’ll regret it.

Wait, if you can only copy stuff you make…

Right now a question should occur to you. If you create something and you have automatic copyright to it, that means that anyone making a copy without your permission has violated the law. Podcasting is all about distributing your content all over the internet, mostly without your permission. How do these two jive?

There’s a couple of ways that you can deal with this. First, you don’t want to create fear in your audience that the act of downloading your podcast will cause you to get mad and sue. Whatever you do, make sure that’s clear.

Here’s an idea. You could put a disclaimer that gives blanket permission for distribution. If you have a copyright attorney in your church, have her draft something short that you can attach to your feed or on every blog post.

Here’s a better idea. Because of the limits of copyright, some law professors got together and drafted a few license agreements that work in certain cases. One of these is podcasting. The blanket name for these licenses is “Creative Commons”. Visit http://creativecommons.org/about/licenses/ for these licenses.

Using Creative Commons, you can know that you still have copyright on your work, but that people can distribute it without fear (as you wish they would). The differences in these licenses center around whether others can make derivative works or not and under what circumstances. On one end of the spectrum you have the ND version of Creative Commons which says that no one may make derivative works for any reason. On the other end, you can do anything with the content as long as you attribute the source. Copying, distribution, and performance/display are all allowed in all licenses.

They wouldn’t be appropriate for content that you don’t want copied and distributed, but most podcasts aren’t like that. For most podcasts, you want more, rather than less, distribution. If you’re selling the final product later, this might not be the case, but most of the time you won’t be.

Keep in mind that the danger to your work probably isn’t that a lot of people will hear it. The greater danger is that someone would take something you say out of context and try to prove something to discredit you. Always keep backups in case.

Paul Alan Clifford, M.Div.

Paul Alan Clifford, M.Div. has been a tech volunteer with Quest Community Church in Lexington, KY since 2000 and is the founder of TrinityDigitalMedia.com, llc. He became part of the technology in ministry team when his church’s attendance was around 200 in one Sunday service and has witnessed it’s growth to 5,200 average weekly attendance in one Saturday service, four Sunday services in one online and two physical campuses. He literally wrote the book on podcasting in churches, twitter in churches, & servant-hearted volunteering, as well as writing various articles for publications like “Church Production” and “Technologies for Worship” magazines.