We all make mistakes and I'm writing this not to accuse, but to remind us all about what is legal and what is illegal to use when it comes to illustrations for church bulletins, PowerPoint, and other ways we illustrate events and messages in church.
What prompted me to write this was a church bulletin whose entire front was filled with a number of panels of Calvin and Hobbs cartoons. The father in the cartoons repeatedly told Calvin that various things happened to him "to build his character." It was a funny and entertaining way to illustrate a sermon on godly character.
It was also highly illegal.
It is a violation of copyright law to copy and reprint a cartoon without paying for it and the creator of the Calvin and Hobbs cartoons is known for his refusal to allow his characters to be used in any licensing or reprinting of his images in anything other than what he himself created.
Many of us have done similar things without thinking—but here is how to not do it anymore
Most churches know they can't use music or lyrics any time and in any way they want. Most churches have licenses that give them permission to use the songs they use in a church service, but many people forget that you must also ask permission to use other content that you did not create.
Below are some excerpts to articles with clarifications and advice and below them an excellent free PDF resource, all to help you observe copyright laws correctly. Hopefully, these will help build our character correctly in how we use the creations of others.
A Friendly Reminder About Cartoon Copyrights
People love to share cartoons on Facebook and Twitter, in newsletters, blogs, presentations at work, in classrooms, on bulletin boards, in business communications and e-mails. I LOVE it when people share my cartoons —- but there is a RIGHT (legal) way to share and a WRONG (illegal) way to share cartoons.
According to an article in Training Magazine, the best way to keep the copyright cops from knocking at your door is “Always assume that any pre-existing work you’d like to use is copyrighted work and that it requires permission from the copyright owner to use or copy.”
If you infringe on someone’s copyright, you may be liable for legal fees and fines up to $50,000 per violation. Stealing a cartoon off of the internet to use in a Powerpoint presentation, website or newsletter without permission is a punishable crime.
How to Make Money and Save Your Soul
Q & A on Fair Use
What about if I use it on Facebook? Link to it or Like it! It will still show up as a thumbnail on your Timeline. Otherwise, buy the cartoon. There’s no freebie for Facebook.
But I left the cartoonist’s signature in there! So what? How does that pay her bills that month? How does he know where it’s been used? If it’s showing up everywhere, she just lost a sale and do you really want the cartoonist to spend hours tracking you down and telling everyone what you did?
I got the cartoon from someone else. On Facebook. Don’t be a doobie. The other person is either ignorant or a thief, but you don’t have to be!
I found the cartoon on Google images. Other people must be using it. No, that just means the artist or cartoonist was generous enough to post it on his or her website for you to enjoy, and Google scanned it. Google doesn’t own any cartoons!!! Every cartoon belongs only to the cartoonist. No cartoon that you find on Google is free. Let me repeat that: NO CARTOON ON GOOGLE IS FREE.
On Bill Watterson’s Refusal To License Calvin And Hobbes
To help you sort out what you can and can't use, here is a link to an excellent, free and free to share PDF booklet on church copyright: LR_Copyright_Guidelines_010711