The Word tells us in Ecclesiastes 1:9 that there is nothing new under the sun. God has created all things. He inspired the writers of the Scriptures to record the history, prophecy, and poetry that was God-given. We share the Word of God with the world and quote from it liberally.
In dance and movement ministry, ignorance does not absolve us from following the laws of the land. Choreography, music, writings, published works, images, and a host of other "intellectual property" may be protected under the law. We cannot liberally take from protected works without giving the proper credit. Let's look at a couple of scenarios for clarity:
Choreography and Dance
Ballet, Modern, African, and other dance disciplines involve technical elements that are widely accepted. Even with technical training, Graham, Horton, Ailey, and other renowned choreographers are often given credit for their contributions to the art form. As movement ministers, we share many elements of dance and movement that can be considered "public domain," but if we take an entire section of choreography from someone and apply it without permission, we are in essence stealing it.
When we receive instructions from the Lord in regards to movement, He will give us creativity and movement beyond our imaginations! This choreography may or may not include the technical elements of dance. He may instruct us to use props, flags, billows, streamers, etc, or not. Our steps are indeed ordered by Him!
Many of us often quote from the Bible, and we should! However, when we write books, manuals, blogs, articles, etc, we should be understand the laws that we are governed by. If we are using a quote, we should cite the source of it. If we quote from a book, we must follow protocol for citing sources in our written works. Writings published on the internet may be protected as well. Whether we are aware of the terms or not, we should never present works that we have been inspired by as our own.
Many versions of the Bible are not under copyright, but some versions are. For instance, the King James Version of the Bible is public domain; however, the NIV, NASB, NKJV, and many other translations are copywritten. When we publish works, we must research to see what permissions we have, or we may find ourselves in a court of law. If we study to show ourselves approved, we will not be ashamed! (2 Timothy 2:25)
Artistic Works and Logos
Many dance ministries use visual aids in ministry or to advertise an upcoming event. It is easy to right-click and save a picture to use for advertisments, websites, blogs, and more. If we use a protected work, we may have to pay fees and penalties if we did not obtain the proper licensing for it.
If another ministry or company has a logo that we like, we cannot simply take it and use it for ourselves. Paying a graphic designer to create a custom work may very well be worth it. Be careful though, even if you are not aware that a work is under protection, we can still be held liable for posting it on our websites and materials.
This is a touchy area especially in the church. Many dance ministries use songs without permission for public worship, and in many cases, this is acceptable if we are not charging admission fees. If we take those same dances and sell them on DVD or upload them onto YouTube or a similar video service, we can be sued for copyright infringement. Does this means that we must use original works for every song? We do not have to go that far, but remember several times the Bible tells us to "sing unto the Lord a NEW song." Get WRITE church!
The Lord is concerned about our motives. Most movement ministers are not lawyers, but we can properly prepare ourselves if we take the necessary steps to combat the traps of the enemy. The Bible also lets us know in Hosea 4:6 that "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge." We cannot use the Holy Spirit or the Gospel as an excuse to take the gifts and talents of others and present them as our own. Even if our intentions were not to do so, the law protects creative works and we must adhere to them. Let's walk upright. We do not want to have a subpoena come to our doors to learn the lesson!
New King James Bible Version
You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another.
“Therefore behold, I am against the prophets,” says the LORD, “who steal My words every one from his neighbor.
For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak.
Romans 13: 1-3
Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.