IP and the Church

The Lady has become a tad bit obsessed with Church hence this article and other articles in another part of blogosphere. Must have been the time in Europe that fanned her obsession with the Church. By ‘the Church’, she means the Orthodox Church and more specifically, the Anglican Communion. Stained glasses formed part of my earliest memories of the Church, it’s a shame that most new Church buildings do not have them anymore. The Lady had such great plans of learning the art of glass painting at some Church in England, but alas life!

If you have ever attended an Orthodox Church, you can tell of its richness in culture, arts and traditions. This effect is multiplied when you have been in old buildings like St Paul’s Cathedral and the Westminster Abbey. It is akin to worshipping in history. At least, that was how the Lady felt and still feels. Truth be told, the Lady attended services in this Churches more out of curiosity than the service itself. Since then, the Lady has come to appreciate the Church more and realise the enormous Intellectual Property it sits on.

Trademarks and a bit of Copyright: The name of the Church (parishes) may qualify as trademarks where unique and distinctive, but the Lady doubts that would be the case for Churches named after Saints or revered figures. In the Abuja Diocese for instance, there are two St Matthew’s Anglican Churches. The structures are even somewhat similar. If the names do not qualify, logos such as these will qualify.

Church of Nigeria
Church of Nigeria
Diocese of Lagos West
Diocese of Lagos West

The Lady is aware that some Churches invite submissions for this, but is unaware how the attached rights are dealt with. Nevertheless, such submissions would typically fall under commissioned works for which first ownership of copyright automatically belongs to the author (artist). In the interest of the Church, it should endeavour to have the copyright transferred to itself by contract. It would be awkward for the Church to register a mark for which it does not own the copyright. Use of Church logos are commonplace in publications by the Clergy. For such use, the Lady suggests licensing agreements.

The Church also uses numerous symbols in its order of worship.The protection of these symbols often straddle copyright, trademarks and designs law.

Book of Common Prayer
Anglican Book of Common Prayer

Copyright: The history of the Church is contained in numerous documents and publications, some of which have fallen out of copyright protection. Nevertheless, this Book of Common Prayer (2007) will be protected by copyright as a literary work – compilation in this instance. It does not matter that the content is not original having originated decades ago and the use widespread.

The hymns! You know that’s the best part of the Church, right? The Lady attended a different Church recently and was ready to belt off to popular hymn. Alas, the lyrics had been altered. A remix, you may choose to call it. The Lady wondered if that Church obtained permission from the right-holders. The melody and lyrics of these hymns are protected by copyright. Even when the economic rights lapse, the author* retains moral rights of authorship and integrity. These moral rights are perpetual, inalienable and imprescriptible.

Church Hymnal – Acknowledgment of Copyright Holders

The copyright symbol and notices contained in the Church Hymnal form part of the Lady’s earliest introduction to IP. Compared to the Church Hymnal, this other Church’s hymnal did not contain any copyright notices nor acknowledgments. It appears that the Church (okay, this is getting confusing) takes copyright serious, because it identifies the original composers, alterations made to the lyrics and by whom.

Church Hymnal

Sermons are also protected as literary works. Priests are often employed by the Church in full time or part time roles. Thus, sermons prepared by them are subject to Section 10 of the Copyright Act, which deals with works made in the course of employment. The law is that copyright belongs to the Priests in the first instance unless otherwise stipulated in writing under a contract. Priests who sell compilations of their sermons are therefore in their right unless their contract of employment otherwise stipulates so.

Section 10 will also apply to recordings made of the service and photographs taken. While there are no laws on data and privacy in Nigeria, the Lady is of the opinion that consent should be obtained for photographs in particular. Some would argue implied consent, but the Lady still shoos photographers away in Church and at other events.

With copyright and sale of works comes tax issues in which the Lady is not sufficiently versed and would therefore refer you to this and this.

The stained glasses I mentioned earlier and other art works are also subject to copyright protection. So next time you are in a religious place of worship, take some time to consider works that can be protected as IP.

*This includes his heirs and successors.


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