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Copyright infringement is dishonest

People who would not think of stealing money or goods sometimes have no qualms about stealing "intellectual property," said Elizabeth W. Pierce at a workshop question-answer session on copyright laws.

Sister Pierce, a paralegal who worked nearly 13 years for the Church Copyrights and Permissions office, said, "Photocopying music without permission is dishonest and illegal; it is an infraction of federal copyright law."Here are some of the questions and her responses from the session.

May one make a photocopy of sheet music to mark up for analysis or, for example, give director's cues in performance, thus preserving a clean, archival copy of the music?

For the purpose of scholarship or analysis, one may make a copy, so long as the copy is not shared with others.

Do copyrights last indefinitely?

No, copyrights expire. If a work was copyrighted before March 1, 1978, the duration is 28 years, renewable for 47 years, totaling 75 years as a rule of thumb on any work copyrighted prior to that date. After that date, the duration is the life of the author, renewable for 50 years. For works copyrighted by companies, the duration is 75 years.

What is the liability for copyright infringement?

The civil liability is up to $100,000 for each infraction. Thus, illegally copying music for use in a ward choir, for example, could easily bring a lawsuit for millions of dollars. Through a legal doctrine called "vicarious liability," the choir director, stake president and the Church could become embroiled in the lawsuit. Thus, it is absolutely necessary that Church members scrupulously observe copyright laws.

What music in the Church hymnbook may be copied?

Each hymn carries a notice at the bottom of the page as to whether it may be copied "for incidental, noncommercial church or home use" or whether copying is prohibited without permission. If there is no such notice, the hymn is in the public domain and may be freely copied.

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