Be prepared: copyright, trademark and privacy laws do affect religion communication

By Amelia Tucker-Shaw

Cayce Myers (photo by Andy and Malinda Rawls)

The Religion Communicators Council national convention held in Atlanta, Georgia the weekend on the commemoration of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. offered multiple workshops, including a session to inform and engage religion communicators about the law and the church.

Many may believe the church can't be sued or taken to court – not true! M. Cayce Myers, Ph.D., J.D., APR, a legal research editor for the Institute for Public Relations, member of the Georgia Bar Association and assistant professor of communication at Virginia Tech, presented a well structured process for all faith groups to consider – better to be prepared than not!

A review of copyright, trademark and privacy laws that affect religion communication was shared with a very attentive audience of attendees at the 89th convention of the RCC. All participants came seeking information on how the law affects the church and what the church should do to be prepared. A great backdrop to being prepared for a crisis is having a plan in place and available tools and resources to help the church address legal concerns and religious matters. Myers presented the information in a manner that was easy to grasp and a great exchange of questions and answers ensued between the presenter and participants.

Some of the key take aways included:

  • Know your liabilities and limitations

  • Develop and update your church policies and guidelines on a regular basis to be current and in compliance within the law

  • Know who is liable

  • Understand and secure copyright, trademark and privacy coverage on the resources of the church (church name, logo, social media intellectual property, etc).

It is suggested that faith groups have an attorney or knowledgeable person to help develop church guidelines and policies to better protect your congregants, your church property and yourself.

A few resources to reference for more information:

Speaker's slides: That Law Doesn't Apply to Me, Does It?

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