Technology: No Free Cyber Ride

Churches discover old rules apply to new technologies.

In the past, many churches have violated copyright laws by photocopying choir music and using protected materials in publications and audiocassettes.

Now, as more churches gain access to cyberspace—a world of computers, software, online services, and Web sites—new copyright issues are posing further ethical and legal quandaries. The emerging technologies offer new avenues for violations involving computer software, the Internet, and downloaded music.

A monthly subscription fee to an online service normally does not allow the use of downloaded text and graphics in church publications, according to America Online (AOL) spokesperson Andrew Graziani. "It's the user's responsibility to make sure they get proper permission and authorization from the author."

Though AOL owns the copyright to some online files, Graziani notes many files are both posted and copyrighted by AOL's online partners, such as Newsweek, Rolling Stone, and CHRISTIANITY TODAY.

Eventually, Graziani sees churches and other computer users coming to grips with the emerging technologies. "As more and more people get online, and as the medium becomes more mainstream—which is rapidly happening—it will become a much more natural process for people," he says. "It's a fairly new medium, and it's unlike any other medium that exists."

Lisa Traughber, system operator for the Baptist Sunday School Board's SBCNet forum on CompuServe, says she frequently receives requests for particular types of clip art. "We have no problem posting sbc items, but if it's copyrighted by someone else, we don't post it," she says.

BREAKING THE LAW: Traughber says some online customers respond with comments such as: "This is for my ministry; this is doing the Lord's work; copyright ...

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