A Word About Copyright

Todd Hackbarth (Lake Mills, Wisconsin USA)
Tom Kuster (New Ulm, Minnesota USA)

Archived discussion

About the presenters

Todd Hackbarth and his "wonderful wife" Donna [his words] have five kids, two at Lakeside, two at Martin Luther College, and one serving as a teacher in Illinois. After teaching in a one-room school in Des Moines, Iowa, and 5th grade in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, he is now at Lakeside Lutheran High School, Lake Mills, Wisconsin, where his courses include mainly math, but also Old Testament and videography – and he helps out with coaching.
Dr. Tom Kuster, after pastoral positions in Madison, Wisconsin and Muskegon, Michigan, spent his career teaching Communication courses in college, for 20 years at Dr. Martin Luther College in New Ulm, Minnesota, and 20 more at Bethany Lutheran Seminary and College, Mankato, Minnesota, where he helped develop a strong Communication major, helped design Bethany's first media production studio, and in 2009 founded the Christ in Media Institute. He and wife Judy raised nine children and are co-hosts of this Online Conference.

When we undertake video production for promotions or other reasons, we usually look for music. Sometimes it functions merely for background or mood; at other times it forms the basis of the video, as with the "lip-dubs" that some of our schools have done.

When music is added to our videos for any reason, the question of intellectual property rights – copyright – comes into play. Let's first consider why Christians will want to be very careful with this matter, and then what that attention could involve.


Care is called for on several levels. Consider these issues:

1) the legal issue: violations of the law are easy in this realm. In itself, that is a strong consideration, but add to that the possibility of significant punishment. Remember the woman in northern Minnesota who shared music files online and whom the industry decided to make an example of and was fined millions. Legal action would be a great embarrassment to our churches and schools.

2) the terms of service issue: Many of our distribution plans involve YouTube. These are the relevant paragraphs from the YouTube Terms of service:

"Section 6 Your Content and Conduct

"Part B. You shall be solely responsible for your own Content and the consequences of submitting and publishing your Content on the Service. You affirm, represent, and warrant that you own or have the necessary licenses, rights, consents, and permissions to publish Content you submit; ...

"Part D. You further agree that Content you submit to the Service will not contain third party copyrighted material, or material that is subject to other third party proprietary rights, unless you have permission from the rightful owner of the material or you are otherwise legally entitled to post the material and to grant YouTube all of the license rights granted herein."

That reads like express permission is needed for using the work of any artist.

3) the ethical issue: using an artist's work without permission disrespects their artistic integrity, and potentially harms them. It is stealing something that is theirs.

4) the modeling issue: Christians, representing their Lord, must be models of propriety. We cannot cause offense by leading anyone to violate conscience, or give the unbelieving world just cause to accuse us.

In sum, we need to be careful, not careless, about this matter.


There are several ways to manage copyright with integrity. One is to write and perform our own music. Just as we want to encourage our young filmmakers and graphic artists to develop their skills and use them for the Lord's work by developing high school and college courses in those areas, we ought to be encouraging our young would-be musicians in the same ways to compose and perform music for our own video productions. We believe that all of our schools should start visual production courses. Of course, the visual isn't all that is involved with media production. We need the composers too. While it remains important to teach students to play and appreciate the old music, we need good NEW music, of the kinds that can be used in media productions.

But that will go only so far.

For background and mood music, Lakeside students have used good legitimate music sources like Digital Juice and Freeplay Music. Bethany Lutheran College has no written policy on the music students use in their productions for viewing in classes and beyond, but much of the above is understood. Kurt Paulsen, who teaches Media Arts, said they let students use what they will for in-class assignments, but they understand they risk legal action by distributing it anywhere beyond that. Since students spend a lot of effort on their productions, virtually always with the hope that they can show them beyond the classroom, that pretty much precludes their use of any artist's work without permission. It just doesn't happen. Bethany makes its subscription libraries available to students for commercial work, broadcasts, or competition pieces.

Beyond that, many artists are willing to make their work available under conditions that they set; one way they do that is by using Creative Commons. Users should become intimately familiar with the various types of Creative Commons licenses. Paulsen reports that Bethany students sometimes use the Free Music Archive. There each track has copyright information connected with it, and students can become very aware of what is and what is not allowed. Most tracks are free to download and share, some are free to download and re-edit, some are free to download and synchronize. This last option, download and synchronize, is the most useful for video people and also the least common. But music tagged in that way can be found and used by those who look for it and know the Creative Commons language.

At Lakeside producers were able to obtain rights for the song on their lip dub, finding it quite easy to do. When they asked the label that owned the rights, they were granted permission in view of how the label would receive money for the commercials that play on the video once it was placed on YouTube. Here is their letter:

Hi Todd

If the song's use is only for the YouTube video there is nothing you need to do or to pay. Our digital rights manager Mary tomorrow will claim property of the song in our YouTube content manager. You will be notified by YouTube that Bliss Corporation has claimed the song. If you agree to that you do not need to do anything and after someday you'll see commercials appearing on the video. That means the process went through and we will start monetizing the video part where the song appears. Todd, thank you for reaching out to us and thank you for using our song for your school video (which I did enjoy by the way). Any help or information you might need regarding this subject do not hesitate to get in touch with me anytime. All the best!

YouTube provides a resource for making music available in a responsible manner, showing how popular pieces of music may be used on YouTube. Most of the music will simply have advertisements put on the video, that is, they monetize your video. Producers who want to use the music can decide whether that would be acceptable to them.

And so Christian producers, who want to be scrupulously respectful of intellectual property rights, have available a variety of legitimate strategies to build the productions that meet their needs.

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Michael K. Smith 28 days ago
Many congregations upload their worship services to Facebook/YouTube/Vimeo, etc. I was wondering about copyright issues for the music that is included in these videos. I came across this resource: http://www.thecopyrightcoach.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/FactSheet_6MythsCopyrights.pdf. Please note Myths #3, #4, and #6 especially. How concerned should our congregations be about this common practice of uploading (or live streaming) their worship services and copyright infractions?
Todd Hackbarth 28 days ago
Hello Michael. Thank-you for reading the presentation. Dr. Kuster might be able to answer this one better than me. Most of the videos I post to YouTube are promos for Lakeside Lutheran High School. I am always concerned about copyright issues. Usually I use purchased music or look to obtain the rights. One of my colleagues is in charge of streaming at Lakeside. I will ask him as well as our music directors about your question. I think some congregations are using companies like the link below to obtain the rights they need.


I hope this helps, and I will try to get back to you. To answer your question, I would be certainly look into copyright requirements before streaming worship services.

Todd Hackbarth 27 days ago
At Lakeside Lutheran High School, our music department uses a combination of OneLicense.net and CCLI. They said that covers the majority of music they use. They also have live streaming options. After talking with them this afternoon, this sounds like a great option for congregations as well. Our band director thought the prices for congregations vary on size of the congregation. I hope I have answered your question. Please let me know if you have any other questions. The LORD's blessings on your day!
Jason Jaspersen 26 days ago
Thanks for addressing this very relevant issue. I work with students at Minnesota Valley Lutheran High School on some video production. Our Desktop Publishing class prints a newspaper, yearbook, and, in recent years, manages a student blog. Or program is gradually getting comfortable with video and this topic of using music in our videos will need to be considered.
Todd Hackbarth 25 days ago
Hello Jason,

If you are looking for music for videos for school, I have found two sites to be extremely useful. One is freeplaymusic.com. Students are able to use music for in-class projects for free. They would also be able to post to their personal YouTube channels for free. Freeplaymusic will monetize the video on YouTube and make their money that way. Our school also has a contract with them to put so many videos (songs really) on YouTube a year for a yearly fee. We started this many years ago, and they generously give us the same rate each year. It might be higher prices now. Another excellent resource for us is digitaljuice.com. Digtialjuice.com is more than just music. It has motion graphics, lower thirds, stock footage, etc. For a one-time fee, you can use all of their products. It is very much worth the price in my opinion. These products help the videos look much more professional.

God bless your day!
Tom Kuster 5 days ago Moderator Author
Sometimes copyrighted material shows up in a video almost accidentally - as when a radio is playing music in the background, or a corporate logo appears in a shot. These too are matters for care. Sometimes they are considered "fair use" and sometimes they are infringements. See this distinction discussed by VideoMaker at
Tom Kuster 3 days ago Moderator Author
See this too about films in festivals: