Use of Movies and Trademarked Images in Church

Use of Movies and Trademarked Images in Church

Monday, November 26, 2018

Hey Fletch … This may not be in your wheelhouse but I know you have a lot of experience and knowledge! We are doing Christmas at the Movies this year. When it comes to licensing and copyrights, I’m not too concerned about the Sunday morning elements. We have licensing that would cover us and I believe most would be Fair Use. What about graphics? Although I’ve seen other large churches do this same theme, I get a little hesitant when using copyrighted items, such as the Elf or Grinch names and fonts. Do you have thoughts or know someone I could ask?

DRF—We enjoyed visiting with you at the Dallas Smart Money for Church Salaries workshop and look forward to seeing you at the XP-Seminar.

As for showing clips from movies, your existing license might cover that. There is a CCLI license that allows for showing clips: 

The Church Video License® provides legal coverage for churches and organizations to publicly show motion pictures and movie scenes. ScreenVue® provides instant access to sermon illustration ideas for thousands of movies, ranging from cutting-edge independent filmmakers to the top-grossing major Hollywood studios. 

Things change if you livestream the service or record your sermons for later use. Talk to the people at CCLI about licenses for these distribution methods.

I would urge caution for images, graphics and trademarks. Legalzoom notes:

Fair use of copyrighted material by a nonprofit organization, such as a church, is favored over use of the same material by a commercial organization. Seven appropriate circumstances are listed in the fair use statute: criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship or research. Using a copyrighted photo in a sermon to demonstrate a point or to educate the congregation may fall into one of these seven purposes.

If you are going to use an image or trademark to advertise the sermon series, you will need copyright permission. This would include an introductory graphic to the message. You are using the work of others for promotional purposes and should pay for that use.

Use of images in sermons can become challenging. Movies in churches are not generally “fair use” and need a license. Use in a sermon of a trademarked image may be for “criticism or comment.” This is generally “fair use” and acceptable.

For a legal opinion, let me connect you with Steven Goodspeed at The Church Lawyers. Depending on your need, there may be a fee for a legal opinion. However, that fee is better to pay than a fine or lawsuit!

Steven—David seems to have hit most of the appropriate warnings for sure. Sunday morning is not an exemption nor automatically “fair use.”  Fair use is pretty narrowly determined and is restricted to copyright and not trademark law so much.  

In addition to ensuring you have an appropriate license or permission from the trademark or copyright owner, you might also look into cyberliability insurance as a rider to your normal insurance policies, especially if your church does a lot of social media posts, videos and images.

Trust me when I tell you that there are firms with robots crawling the web, looking for copyrighted or trademarked images. Once they flag and document them, you’ll receive a really difficult letter from the rights’ administrator asking for money. It does pay (so to speak) to make sure it is all done correctly.

2018-11-06T20:12:20+00:00By |Fletch Finance, Fletch Policy, Hey Fletch|

About the Author:

For over 35 years, David has served churches from 1,000 to 8,000 members. As well as being a pastor, David is a spiritual entrepreneur. He founded XPastor as a global ministry tool for leaders of churches of all sizes. XPastor provides a website, an XP-Newsletter, the annual XP-Seminar, workshops, and online courses.