Clergy Copyright Notes

NOTE to CLERGY:  We have received several wonderful submissions recently from ministers in our UU faith tradition, as well as other liberal faiths. We look forward to publishing their fine work! That said we have found that clergy are often not aware that they may not own the copyright to their written work – especially their sermons. When clergy (specifically settled ministers of a congregation) are seeking to publish their sermons (such as in our “a Sermon in My Pocket” series, we really need to confirm that the author of the sermon truly does own the copyright. Please have a copy of your church contract ready to review.  Most clergy are unaware of the fact that sermons and other written works and compositions may be owned by the church they serve as they fall under the written “work for hire” copyright law.  We can still publish your sermons; we would just need to navigate establishing copyright – possibly transferring the copyright into your possession, though that is a 501c3 gray area. We can work with the church should they wish to keep the copyright and publish it to benefit the church, but again there are gray areas regarding a minister’s potential royalties as it could be considered a prohibited inurement and thus jeopardize the church’s tax-exempt status.  The same laws do not necessarily apply to community ministries even if they are in covenanted relationships with congregations, and the potential of copyright disputes almost never apply to freelance ministers or those doing pulpit supply or itinerant/circuit ministries as they are not staff of the churches they serve.