Copyright law is confusing. CCLI SongSelect makes it easy to access the lyrics, chord charts, and sheet music you need, but that still leaves lots unaccounted for—backgrounds, announcement slides, illustration videos, prelude and postlude music, and more. It’s hard to know if you can use that thing you found on YouTube, or if you should buy it from a web store somewhere.
Use these three guidelines and sleep soundly, knowing you’ve avoided any possible accidental theft.
If you can buy it, do.
Start by searching for a place to purchase the item in question. Find out who created it, and backtrack to the owner’s site. Follow social-media links to the origin. Watch the address bar and header—you’re looking for a .com with a shopping cart.
If you can’t find the origin, use comments to ask things like “Where did you find this?” and “Who made this?” That might sounds strange, since many people do the opposite—find a paid product, and search for a way to get it free in the name of frugality and stewardship. Both are important virtues, but if someone is trying to make a living from that work, you are stealing.
If you can’t buy it, ask.
You may find that someone created the thing you’d like to use with no expectation of financial gain. You might find they’re more than happy to let you use their work, with no strings attached. The Internet is full of creative, friendly people who are just making art for art’s sake. Don’t be afraid to ask. Chances are good that you’ll get a flattered and enthusiastic “yes.” It’s rare to get an outright “no.” Worst case: you’ll get a link to a web store that you weren’t able to find in the first step.
When in doubt, don’t.
At last count, more than 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. You can find another video. A recent decision to offer 1 TB of storage to all users has revived Flickr. You can find another picture. It’s easy to fixate on a single piece of media, but better to go with plan B than to steal.
If you absolutely must get multimedia resources for free, we have good news: Proclaim comes loaded with a library of multimedia resources currently worth more than $800 (and growing). Kill two birds with one stone: download Proclaim and you’ll get a ton of great stuff that you can use right away.