Why Cease and Desist?

A few days ago, I had to send out my first Cease and Desist response because someone was using my/the church’s work without permission and in a way that we we didn’t approve. Since I don’t normally feel like this and am flattered when people want to reuse my work, I feel compelled to explain why.

I got an email through Flickr, from a band in Missouri, asking permission to use the Encounter graphic for their EP that they were releasing.

They included a link to their MySpace page. I popped on over and saw that burning bush image already in use on the page. It’s frustrating that they would think it’s just fine to use an image that doesn’t belong to them on the web without asking permission or even offering credit and then think that print publication is somehow different. This is a common issue that I’ll tackle in a minute.

The main reason for the prohibition is that Encounter wasn’t designed with that use in mind. It’s purpose is to draw people into an encounter with God. The image is part of a teaching tool for pastors and churches, and is currently in use as such. Southeast has been blessed to be able to provide this image and the 30-day Encounter Guide to a few other churches as a spiritual formation and teaching resource.

A lesser but still significant reason, is that the band just isn’t good. Quite frankly, they suck. This may have turned out differently had they actually been a good band, creating music that would draw people closer to God. But their lack of excellence makes their music just noise. it makes them a distraction, and we don’t want Encounter to be associated with that.

Here’s my response to the band:

Though I do appreciate you asking permission to use this graphic for your EP, I see that you are already using it on your MySpace page without the permission of Southeast Christian Church. Using an image online without permission is legally the same as printing an image without permission, and you will need to stop using the Encounter graphic at this time. This is a formal Cease and Desist.

This image was designed for and is currently in use as a resource for churches and pastors. We do not want to make this available outside of sermon series and spiritual formation applications.

Feel free to be inspired by this image, but do not reuse or duplicate it.

Why is all this a big deal?

Because many churches and Christians think that they are above the law because it’s “for God”. We deal with this in our own church even now. We have ministry leads and volunteers who use images from the web without credit, and copying pages out of books without permission. Churches and Christians have a terrible history with the arts. They have long wanted to use art to convey messages, but have many times abused the artist. Christians and churches convince themselves they are being good stewards by bending rules and breaking laws. They don’t allocate funds for the arts, so they want them for free. They feel they deserve them for free, and fail to value the artist. Maybe the churches need to be stewards of the art resources as well as financial resources.

It may sound like I’m beating up churches and Christians here. That’s because I am. I’m not pretending that this doesn’t happen in the corporate world. I’m not saying that non-Christians don’t do this stuff too. But Christians and our churches are called to a higher standard. I’m saying that God expects more.

I confess. I’ve done this. I was one of those that “shared” music back in the day. As I write, I wonder if my church’s attitude toward copyright and the arts had anything to do with that. That they frequently ignored the laws and the rules, so I had no issue with it. Maybe. Regardless, I have learned. I have admitted my guilt and repented. I don’t surf the torrents looking for free shows, movies, software or music. I pay the artist for their work. I let art inspire me rather than ripping it off.

Southeast is getting better. We understand, and we’re changing. There are some stragglers that we’re bringing along, breaking of the “old ways”. We’re lucky to have a worship department assistant who spends massive amounts of time making sure we’re right with the laws. We have a copy room coordinator that takes on the mantle of “bad guy” when ministries don’t have permission. We have artists (my boss and i) that are appreciated and valued.

Are you changing? Is your church changing? What are you/they doing?

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~ by mitchbolton on October 24, 2008.

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