18 Nov

A Need-to-Know Guide Pirates in Our Midst

by Ken Godevenos

Would you allow your staff members to attack each other, taking one another’s belongings without permission? Many would respond, “No way! That’s piracy!” — and they would be right. But in the late 20th century, the word “piracy” began to be associated with the simple “unauthorized use or reproduction of another’s work or product without their awareness and permission.” One common form of piracy is associated with the inappropriate use of software.

Also getting a lot of press these days is the related concept of “plagiarism,” which takes piracy one step beyond stealing to actually passing off the work (most often words penned by another person) as one’s own. In our preaching, most of us are quick to say, “I didn’t say that, Jesus said it,” or “the Bible says it – don’t blame me.” (This was a hot-button issue in one of my blog posts, “Whose Sermon Is It Anyway?”) But we are not as quick or as careful to give credit to others when we use their examples or arguments or make points they originally made.

A third area of concern today is violation of copyright. Most dictionaries define “copyright” as “the exclusive legal right, given to an originator or assignee (e.g. an author’s estate or agent or family) to print, publish, perform, film or record literary, artistic or musical material, and to authorize others to do the same.”

So, do we have any pirates in our midst? Before we continue, it must be stated that this is a very complex area – there are no black and whites, and as we’ll see later, there are some exceptions, especially for nonprofit organizations. The law itself is not as clear as some of us would like it to be. Ultimately, it becomes a matter of ethical behavior and how we ourselves would like to be treated. Here are just some ways church staff may be acting like pirates, plagiarists and copyright violators:

•Plagiarism in our sermons, talks, presentations .Remember – you can use the work of others, provided you give them credit.

•The use of music or songs without paying royalties. Every church should be licensed through Christian Copyright Licensing International, which streamlines copyright issues surrounding congregational worship services.

•The use of lended technology, usually software, which has been purchased by an individual or a company other than the church for one’s own personal or business use.

•The unauthorized photocopying of pages from purchased books for sharing with the staff or those we are working with. People have been known to copy entire chapters of books each week for the members of various classes that they teach because the church does not supply – or members cannot afford or will not buy – the books for themselves. In some cases, entire books have been copied.

•The use of movie clips taken from our own purchased copies of movies for personal use or downloaded from the Internet. Worse still is the use of an entire movie in one of our programs (e.g. youth) that has been copied illegally or downloaded from the Internet …


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