Churches and other nonprofits are embracing the Internet as a way to improve their communication with constituents, promote their mission, and reach a wider audience. One way they’re doing this is by producing videos for publication through social media or on their websites. The power of video is well understood, but video also raises legal pitfalls that organizations should keep in mind.
Copyright is an important source of legal risk that comes with making videos. An important issue is third party rights. A video that contains any content owned by someone other than the organization could give rise to claims of copyright infringement unless a license is obtained. Words, images, or music could all create problems. Bear in mind that copyright problems can arise even with respect to copyrighted items being included as incidental components. For example, if a video includes an interview conducted in a restaurant where music is playing in the background, the music becomes part of the video and therefore would need to be licensed.
Another important copyright issue is the ownership of the video itself. Organizations that invest in producing videos should make sure that they own the results. In addition to taking into consideration third-party content, organizations also need to ensure that the people working on the video, including the videographer, script writer, and people who appear have assigned their rights in the video over to the organization, preferably in writing.
Organizations should make sure that anyone who appears in a video has consented to their image being used by the organization. The right of publicity protects individuals from having their voice, photograph, or likeness used without their consent. California’s right of publicity laws have two flavors. California Civil Code Section 3344 applies to commercial uses of protected content. The courts also recognize a common law right of publicity that extends to any use, regardless of whether there is a commercial component to it. Organizations can avoid frustrating disputes by ensuring that anyone who appears in a video have consented beforehand.
Churches and nonprofits that want to produce videos shouldn’t be discouraged by the risks that are associated with them. Instead, take the time to understand the risks and adopt policies and processes to manage them. The Church Law Center of California advises religious and secular nonprofits on governance and risk management . For assistance with the legal issues surrounding your organization’s video strategy, call us today at (949) 689-0437 or reach out to us through our contact page.