5 Things to Know About Jewish Music and Copyright Laws

Inside Leadership

5 Things to Know About Jewish Music and Copyright Laws

Two copyright stamps and their imprints in red ink on brown paper

In an effort to encourage composers, songwriters, authors, and publishers of Jewish music and material to continue to produce new works, JLicense compensates them fairly for use of their compositions in synagogues and other institutions.

Here are five things your congregation should know about Jewish music and copyright laws:

1. The “religious exemption” in U.S. copyright law is not inclusive.

Although U.S. copyright law includes a “religious exemption” (Section 110 (3)) that allows the use of copyrighted works in religious settings (worship services, etc.) without compensating the copyright owner, the exemption does not extend to broadcasting, webcasting, live-streaming, podcasting, or recording of the parts of worship services that include copyrighted works, all of which require a license or the written permission of the copyright holder.

2. JLicense ensures copyright compliance.

If your congregation streams, podcasts, or stores recordings of services and events (concerts, lifecycle celebrations, etc.), posts services or events on YouTube, or broadcasts through Facebook Live or a similar service, you may be infringing on copyright laws.

3. JLicense is a “one-stop shop” for licensing needs.

Even if your congregation doesn’t stream or podcast services, copyright compliance is required for congregations that:

  • Reprint copyrighted lyrics or music in newsletters, handouts, and worship aids, as well as project them on-screen
  • Create rehearsal recordings for a choir or band or to teach a copyrighted song to a religious school teacher, for example
  • Create an arrangement, adaptation, or edition of copyrighted music or lyrics for use in your own community

4. Several JLicense options are available.  

In addition to the works in the Transcontinental Music catalog, JLicense works with an ever-growing list of composers and songwriters to offer an extensive list of music and lyrics licensed for streaming, podcasting, rehearsal recordings, on-screen projecting, and making custom arrangements, as well as printing in bulletins, newsletters, handouts, and more. Three different licensing options are available:

  • An annual license (based on a congregation or organization’s membership size)
  • A single-use/24-hour license (based on event attendance)
  • A special event/7-day license (based on event attendance)

5. JLicense doesn’t address every copyright scenario.

JLicense does not include the right to reprint copyrighted material in permanent congregational songbooks or to make photocopies of sheet music. By law, congregations must purchase sheet music for each member of its choir, band, or ensemble.

As your congregation prepares its budget for the new fiscal year, consider adding JLicense to ensure the music your community uses in all facets of synagogue life complies with current copyright laws. It is the moral, ethical, and Jewish thing to do.

For information about copyright law from a Jewish perspective, check out A Practical Guide to Copyright. For more information about JLicense, including how Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) congregations can receive a 10 percent discount, visit JLicense.com or email Joe Eglash.

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Joe Eglash is a professional musician, editor, and arranger. He is director of Transcontinental Music Publications (the Reform Movement's music publishing entity) and JLicense (the Jewish music licensing agency), both divisions of the American Conference of Cantors.

Joe Eglash
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