Copyright or Copywrong?

I understand the need for a copyright law, but it’s one of those things that is imperfect at best. I spent several years trying to figure it out working with the Acappella Company. Now I find myself back into it again.

As you probably read in an earlier post, I would like to be able to post a capella recordings of new songs (new to our church, not newly written… yet) on our website. Our first song was Everlasting God by Brenton Brown. We introduced it to the church last night and it went well.

Anyway, I went through the whole process of requesting a license so that we could get it online. Long story short (and it is very long), I was denied a license. I can record it for release on an album, but it cannot be placed on the Internet. This is not so much a function of copyright law as it is EMI/Word policy.

On the company FAQ they say, “songs or master recordings that are owned or administered by EMI Christian Music Group and Word Music, LLC cannot be used on the Internet in any form. Vineyard Music Group recordings are licensed by EMI Christian Music Group; therefore, they cannot be used on the Internet, ” and “The right to display a copyrighted work is an exclusive right of the copyright holder. Also, the right to offer printed copies of someones copyrighted work requires a print license. Subsequently, to be able to display or to offer printed versions (chord charts, lead sheets etc-all of which will need to be secured and or password protected via e-commerce) of our songs via your website, will necessitate a print license from us. As previously stated, EMI and Word do not allow any of their songs on the internet in any form, so we will not be able to license any of the EMI and Word songs for use on the Internet.

So I wrote them back, just to be sure. I wanted to make sure that they understood we were making a new recording, not asking to use the original recording, and that we were wanting to pay royalties. And if this was still not allowed, how did iTunes and other such services fit into that policy?

They replied that large corporate music services were given special allowances (read: we make more money) and at this time EMI is not currently allowing downloads from individual (custom) sites.

However, if we wished to make our recording available on iTunes I should let them know and we can proceed from there. And that, of course, would kill the entire reason for doing this in the first place. How do you teach your church a new song if they have to go to iTunes to buy it first?

So, as far as songs owned and administered by EMI are concerned (which is a lot), we are reduced to physical CD releases. That’s not so bad, just time consuming and costly. We’ll see what happens.

So my next question… how does MySpace get away with allowing all those songs streamed from their thousands of pages? Surely some of those belong to EMI. And I’m sure that if EMI has that policy, you can bet other labels do as well.

Maybe Word would make an exception for one of their former distributed artists? Nah… I’m not holding my breath.


  1. >Mo, this is interesting and frustrating. What if you just put a streaming audio file on the site? What copyright headaches would you have then? You could have those streaming files up for the month that your song is featured.Also, “Everlasting God” is one of my new favs. Have you heard Tomlin do it? Do you have a score for it? Could I get it, or would we both go to jail?I’ve got a few arrangements if you want to lower your standards. 🙂 You may get a good laugh out of them, but if you’re interested, let me know. (songs by Tim Hughes, unrecorded Watermark, and a local guy here in ATL at North Point Community Church)

  2. >Streaming counts as well. They specify NO web usage at all. Interesting thing about it is, I would doubt seriously if they ever knew. But then again, as crazy as the industry is, they may have their own version of the web-police who scour the net looking for violations. Lord save us from the RIAA.I’ll send you my arrangement of Everlasting God.

  3. >Oh, they don’t have anyone policing at least small church web sites. 😉 I sure haven’t been caught yet, and I’ve been doing this for several years. However, I only put low-quality encodings online, and then put them in a folder that isn’t linked to on a web page. So they’d have a hard time finding it, then a hard time proving that people are actually “stealing” the music.I’m surprised EMI won’t go for the internet radio angle, because there are a ton of internet radio sites that play EMI music. I’m betting K-Love is one of them. And I’m also betting the Live365 does too. Most of the time with licensing, placing the file on a web site is treated differently than making a streaming audio available.The current copyright system is very wrong… very old for today’s technology. And the RIAA is definitely exploiting that fact. I can’t stand it. There’s so much I’d like to do online, but I can’t find a currently legal way to do it all.Oh, and MySpace doesn’t “get away” with it completely. The RIAA lawyers are still trying to figure out exactly how to go about suing them. Once they figure that out, I’m sure MySpace will be in serious trouble. MySpace has already had a couple of lawsuits brought against them, I think one was by the MPAA for allowing people to post clips of movies or something. Once the lawyers figure out the exact wording they need to do the most damage, MySpace could be in some hot water.

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