CEO & President, Christian Copyright Solutions, and a Contributor in the area of Copyright Licensing. This interview was originally posted in our February 2016 Newsletter.
Q: How long have you been involved in Copyright Administration and Licensing?
A: 30 years. In 1986, I was asked to start up the in-house music publishing department at Integrity Music, which had just launched their Hosanna! Music worship product.
Q: Could you share the story of how God led you from being on a staff position with Integrity, to starting your own business helping ministries and churches, and then to starting CCS?
A: In Fall of 1996, I left Integrity not really knowing what I’d do. I had felt that the Lord was telling me He had something else for me and I was a little burned out with the Christian Music Industry. I left Integrity, not even really knowing what I’d do. Many people connected with worship music and publishing encouraged me to stay involved with Christian music in some capacity, so I gathered a small group to come alongside me in prayer. With a vision rooted in Isaiah 61:1-5, in January 1996, I started Righteous Oaks Music and started handling copyright administration for a group of songwriter publishers and project management for Worship Leader’s Song DISCovery and international subpublishing. In Summer 2000, I was contacted by Rick Muchow, worship pastor at Saddleback Church in CA, who wanted to ensure the church was fully copyright compliant. Saddleback put me on retainer to handle their licensing. From there, I realized that many churches needed the same service and, in Fall 2001, CCS was born.
Q: What advice do you have for someone who is just starting out in handling their ministry’s copyrights?
A: Copyrights can be very complex and confusing and, for most people starting out, it can be hard to figure out how you can or cannot do use copyrighted material and stay compliant. First, it’s important to know it is a process that will not happen overnight. The most important first step is to become educated about how copyright laws impact your ministry. Besides providing simple licensing solutions, a big part of CCS’s mission has been to provide a lot of free educational resources. The CopyrightCoach.com is our website dedicated to free, downloadable resources. I recommend starting by going there and downloading “Solve the Puzzle of Copyrights: Six Steps to Learning How to Do Music Right” which has the basics broken down into easily-digestible pieces, and is drawn from the course curriculum for the class I teach at the University of Mobile.
Q: What are some of the specific lessons you’ve learned throughout your service in this ministry?
A: Because I’ve done a lot of onsite consults over the years, I’ve seen many surprised reactions when people learn what they should be doing regarding copyrights. So, one thing I’ve learned is that most ministries want to honor copyrights but really just don’t know where to begin.
Q: What skill set does someone need to possess to be effective in handling a ministry’s copyrights?
A: It’s very important that every church or ministry have a “Copyright Gatekeeper,” and there are several key attributes that are helpful for that person to possess, to really be successful in this area. First, they should be very detail-oriented, because there are specifics in dealing with copyrights that shouldn’t be overlooked. The second is that they should be a good communicator, because they’ll need to convey the importance of copyrights, and what needs to be done…to ministry leaders, initially, and—once policies are in place—to ministry staff and volunteers. This person who takes on this role can, oftentimes, be considered to be a wet blanket, so they need to be passionate about doing what’s right and be able to convey their concern for protecting the ministry from risks and liabilities. Beyond just trying to get people to abide by the law, they need to have a real vision and be able to communicate the bigger picture—that when ministries honor songwriters, they play a part in supporting their ministries. That will help others gain understanding and catch the passion for getting their ministry’s copyrights right.
Q: What are some of the challenges someone starting in this area of ministry might anticipate?
A: In the early stages, it’s not uncommon to experience pushback from others who don’t yet have the vision. When this happens, I recommend focusing on getting the ministry’s senior team on board by showing them the reasons, benefit and value to have policies in place, and why it should be a high priority. Simply put, if the leadership isn’t on board, copyright compliance will probably not happen. Once senior leadership is on board, expectations, and the authorization to carry them out, need to be communicated from the top down, to everyone involved in the ministry.
Q: What encouragement can you offer those who are involved in ministry and may be feeling discouraged?
A: Press on! Copyright compliance doesn’t happen overnight and you are honoring the Lord by serving in this area of ministry.
Q: What are some of the specific ways you have been blessed by helping ministries with their copyrights?
A: Over the years, I have been so blessed to be a bridge between content owners and those using copyrights. As a result, I’ve been able to bless both, by helping churches and ministries honor creative people and by supporting songwriters so they can continue in their ministries. Another huge blessing has been getting to know a lot of incredible songwriters and ministry leaders personally, and helping them touch their communities and proclaim the Gospel to the world.
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