Announcing a New Copyright Primer for Congregations

December 8, 2021

dictionary page with entry for "copyright" highlighted in yellow

UUA Publications, in collaboration with the UUA’s legal counsel and staff from Congregational Life, Faith Development, and WorshipWeb, is glad to announce a new resource on copyright and permissions that we hope will make it easier for congregations to determine quickly whether they need permission to use copyrighted material and obtain permission when it is needed.

The new page consolidates information that was previously on separate pages and uses 5 questions to lead users to the information that is most relevant to their own circumstances. The Copyright Primer for Congregations includes information about the religious exemption in copyright law and what it does and does not cover, how copyright law applies to the online environment, permissions that some copyright holders have already granted to Unitarian Universalist congregations, how to request permissions from the UUA and other publishers when needed, and the answers to many other common questions. Please send questions and feedback to Mary Benard (email), Publications Director.

For more information contact .

Copyright Primer for Congregations

Follow Copyright Laws When Using Images

Person sorting through a pile of old photographs

When an organization uses a photograph on their website in violation of the copyright of the image, they run the risk of fines and lawsuits. This is true for congregations too.

As well, we care about covenant and right relationship and misusing an image can put us out of right relationship with the creators of the image. Consult this UUA Copyright Primer for an in-depth understanding of copyright law and congregations. You can follow the steps in the primer for any media you want to use.

This page has some tools and resources to help you and your volunteers find images for your website and social media platforms that you can use under copyright law. Each of these sites is slightly different. Read the fine print on each site carefully and the information for each photograph. This way you can both use the image appropriately and give credit as requested.

Photos That You, Your Staff, or Your Members Take

You can use photos you are given permission to use by both the photographer and any people in the picture. Remember to use a photo permission form for any people featured in the picture, especially children and youth.

UU Graphics

You can find UU themed graphics in these collections.

Stock Photos

There are many commercial stock photo websites where you can purchase the rights to use a photo. You can find stock photos at many sites including free ones from sites like Unsplash, Pixabay, StockSnap, and Pexels.

If you’re looking for images that include the wide range of identities of people who are part of your community, you can search these resources:

You can also use Google’s image search–but change the search settings to only show photos that are licensed under the Creative Commons license.

Help! I Don’t Know Who Holds the Copyright!

This happens to all of us. We have a picture we think we can use, but we’re not sure. You can use a Google reverse image search to try to find where you originally found the photo.

If you can’t find the copyright information, it’s probably safer not to use the image.

Copyright Challenges

If you are contacted by any entity with accusations that you have not followed copyright law on your website, take this seriously. Several UU congregations have been contacted by PicRights and Higbee Associates. Talk to a lawyer, and reach out to your regional staff to find out how other congregations have responded.

Final Advice

No matter how you found your image, read the copyright information before using it. For instance images licensed under Creative Commons license may have limitations on their use.

Consult the UUA Copyright Primer for more information on copyrights and congregational use.

For more information contact .