"Thou Shalt Not Steal"
"It's just a picture. It's not like I'm charing admission."
An issue that many Christian leaders don’t seem to realize or care about is that by distributing copyrighted material you are breaking the law. Intellectual property theft is still theft. You are not exempt from the law because you are a small church or didn’t profit from violating the law. The law is the law and if you are breaking it you will reap the consequences. If it’s not your content and you do not own the rights to distribute the content you are committing an illegal act.
You can't justify sin because you're trying to help people get saved from their sins. Where's the logic in that?
What is the likelihood of us getting caught?
In Tennessee, a church was sued for $150,000 per infringement as well as attorneys’ fees because they live streamed a composition (song) to their website. Even “Going Live” during a concert or other event where copyrighted material is being performed may be illegal. Copyrighted material can be songs, pictures, books, and more. Just because it’s on YouTube or Google Images it does NOT make it public domain. No matter how big of a church you are you are still breaking the law and will reap the consequences. God is clear that this is sin: “Thou shalt not steal.” Exodus 20:15. Does it get any clearer than that?
“In many cases, copyright infringers “innocently” commit copyright infringement in the sense that they do not realize that what they are doing is wrong. This is no defense to liability”. Richard R. Hammar, J.D., LL.M.
Before you steal a sermon title or play a YouTube clip in church ask yourself “Do I own this?” if the answer is no don’t use it. Period.
It’s also a good idea to restrict personal recording devices during services. Often times is plain illegal for someone to record. That’s why churches must use a CCLI license, CCLI streaming license, and not play music they do not have the rights to use.
I’m not a lawyer, so you should always seek professional advice.