Saturday, July 28, 2018

Hey Fletch … I have a quick question that may require a long answer. If a pastor is writing books, who gets the royalties and why? I’m confident that this question has varying answers depending on terms and conditions. I welcome all answers to all possibilities, if you have enough time.

DRF—The general understanding of “work for hire” laws are if a pastor writes a book on church time, on church computers and possibly uses church employees to help, then the book belongs to the church. That is pretty straightforward. It gets complicated if a pastor writes a book after preaching a sermon series on the topic. Was the book based on research done on church time?

If the pastor writes a book after work hours, and on their own computer, this is generally seen outside of the “work for hire” laws. Another way to go is if the pastor has an Intellectual Property agreement in place. These are complex documents that require an attorney to prepare.

Most books are not best-sellers so many churches ignore the work for hire laws (and I’m not advocating that). However, if a book becomes popular, people in the church begin to ask questions about the royalties. The best time to resolve those issues is before the work is published.

I’m a pastor and not an attorney. These thoughts are for educational purposes, so consult an attorney before making any decisions or taking action.