Your Right to Copy? Let’s Talk About Copyrights

Suppose that your church leadership decides to change from one Sunday School curriculum to a different one. Because you order materials for the church body, you’ve been instructed to order this new curriculum for the next quarter. You know how many student books, teacher guides, and visual aids you’ve typically ordered in the past, so you know what to do when it’s time to order the new curriculum you’ve been asked to get. As you’re filling your online cart, it’s becoming obvious that these new materials are more expensive than you realized. You’re keenly aware of the church’s budget, so you know that ordering everything necessary for all the classes is just too expensive.

You’ve been granted the authority to make executive decisions when it comes to ordering, so you decide that to save the church some money, you’ll just order what the budget will bear, and you’ll make photocopies of student books when the shipment arrives. That’s OK, isn’t it?

In a word: Nope.

Open most any book, and you’ll find a copyright page near the front that details the exclusive rights granted to the author or publisher of that original work, including the rights to reproduce, sell or distribute, and change the work as permitted. Any and all uses of that copyrighted material beyond what is considered to be “fair use” require you to obtain permission from the author or publisher.

To copy pages from a copyrighted book, without the author’s or publisher’s permission to do so, can be considered a form of stealing. Why? In most cases, many people have poured their time, creativity, and money into publishing that work. You wouldn’t visit an art gallery and expect to take home an original da Vinci (or even postcards from the gift shop) without paying for it, so why would you make multiple copies of an original publication without paying for them? If you make copies, those who contributed to publishing that work aren’t getting paid for their roles.

There are some people who know about copyright and fair use, but there are just as many who aren’t aware of copyright law. Moreover, a church staff member shouldn’t feel like it’s all right to turn a blind eye because their work is teaching people about the Bible. In the end, learning about what’s in Scripture is an even stronger reason to understand copyright infringement. If you’d like additional information, see Exodus 20:15 or call us at 800-251-2477. We’ll be happy to help!