An Unpopular Truth

I want to first state that CCLI (and CVLI) are well intended companies, but there is something to say about misleading advertising and I hope to address it here.

I am not going to pretend that I am versed in litigious jargon. I am not going to pretend that I know everything there is to know about Copyright Law and I’m especially not going to claim that I know what’s in the hearts and minds of the powers at CCLI, but something is wrong and I think it’s worth pointing out.

It all started when I checked my mail at the church I worked at. A clearly marked advertisement addressed to Tyler Hanson, Production Minister.

I brought it into my office with the intent to throw it way, but something caught my eye “…and keep it legal with the Church Video License.”

So I opened up the envelope only to find a letter and a license fee stub (complete with self-addressed envelope).

To make it clear before I begin here, showing movies in their entirety is something you better have rights for, and CVLI (in my estimation) is the best way to do that, if your organization (church, school, etc.) shows them in their entirety as a self-enclosed event.

But in the letter, there was this phrase. It said, “special permission must be granted for any public performance of any portion of copyrighted movies.”

I’m like, “We’ve decided as a church not to do movie events (unless we License them directly from Christian-ese companies like Outreach) but we do use a clip here and there almost every series. Are we in breach?”

I can’t tell you how many people in my position, even at churches, who would have said, “Eh. Who cares? We’re probably fine.” Or “Eh. Who cares? Let’s just buy it and be fine.”

The problem is that:

1. This phrase is factually incorrect.

2. People need to know this.

So many churches are a lot like your Grandma. They get a letter from somebody who scares them into thinking they need something when they don’t and they fork over the $200-$700+ thinking, “I don’t want to get into trouble. This will protect me.”

And part of me thinks, well that’s their target market — good for CVLI. But the phrasing they used was (in my previous research over the last 3 years) to put it bluntly: a lie.

I want to point you to the 2016 drama of YouTube. Lots of vloggers were getting lots of videos flagged, taken down, and/or demonitized because it had some copyright material in their video. The vloggers were pretty outraged, because they were doing commentaries on films, television shows, and even other YouTubers and it’s hard to do visual reviews on works without using visual works.

H3H3 (Ethan a Hila Klein) did a video from 2016 that got them in some heat. Ethan critiqued a video whose author was pretty law-savvy and had the time and money to do something about it. The author sued and Ethan was floored. After a year and months of litigation, he won. In a lot of ways, Fair Use advocates and YouTube critics around the world rejoiced.

It was sweet and opened my eyes on the whole concept of Fair Use in the context of even church world.

I have since contacted the head guy of CVLI Malcolm Hawker and we went a couple rounds in email, but he didn’t want to entertain the issue any longer on the word “any”.

For our church, we have decided that we will ask for permission on Videos where we’d be using a substantial amount, but legally acquired clips of movies/television? We believe that we are not in breach of copyright to use it.

All churches would be wise to err on the side of caution and as always strive to be above reproach, but if you’re a smaller church, I would hope you’re not being fear-mongered into a purchase you really don’t need.

Do your research first.

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