A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO COPYRIGHT
by ADRIAN DURLESTER
Parnasa (livelihood) is a basic concept in Judaism. Our faith has long recognized that, while one can and should perform religious services such as writing liturgically-based music, performing cantorial or songleading services, etc., for the community willingly, people do need to earn a living. To varying degrees, composers, songwriters, and performers depend on income from legitimate sales of printed music and recordings.
“One who derives benefit and the other suffers loss [is liable].” (Bava Kamma 20a)
Another honored concept in Judaism is attribution. It is considered a great honor to report the words of another.
“R. Eleazar further said in the name of R. Hanina: Whoever reports a saying in the name of its originator brings deliverance to the world…” (Talmud Megilah 15a)
It is so important for Jewish organizations and institutions to show due respect to the creators and performers of Jewish music. This respect comes in the form of only performing authorized duplication of printed music, recordings, and other works; through properly attributing all works to their creators, and following the copyright law as it exists at this time.
The creators of contemporary Jewish music want their music to be used, and all encourage the use of their compositions. It is not the intent of Transcontinental Music, the ACC, JLicense, and the URJ to impose undue hardship or restrictions that would hinder the use of original works for worship, camps, schools, and other settings. Rather, we hope to find a way to balance the organizational need for fiscal responsibility using limited financial resources with appropriate respect for the artists’ need for parnasa, and for being properly known as the creator of their works.
This FAQ is divided into two sections. The first contains practical answers to questions that might arise for you or your organization in your everyday activities. The second covers the underlying values and mechanisms of copyright and intellectual property law.
Section I: Practical FAQs
→What is best practice for me (or my organization) regarding copyright?
Both morally and legally, best practice would be to plan your activities and actions to be in compliance with copyright law. The cardinal guideline is to “ask permission.” Most composers, songwriters, publishers, et al are happy to work with you to help you get the permissions you need in a reasonable fashion. However, copyright holders are likely to be more receptive when requests are made in a timely manner. All of that said, JLicense takes care of many typical issues.
→What if I am faced with a special situation and there’s no time to ask?
The answer is there’s always time to ask. Poor advance planning on your part does not create an automatic emergency for the copyright holder. Plan ahead. If you can’t get the permissions you need, select a different work for which you can, or find another suitable alternative.
→Can I make a copy of a copyrighted CD, DVD, or purchased audio or video file?
As a purchaser of the audio CD or download (no matter the content), you (or your institution) have the right to make one copy for your reference or back-up needs, unless you have received written permission from the publisher or copyright holder. Therefore, if you require multiple copies for a learning center, members of a group or any other use, you must by law purchase exactly the appropriate number of CDs or downloads. You may not distribute (or rent) your legal copy – it is for your own use. However, you may copy the content onto whichever format you choose – digital or otherwise, as long as it is for your own personal use.
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