University of Arkansas at Little Rock Law Review


Kevin M. Lemley

Document Type



This article focuses on the religious services exemption to the Copyright Act. The religious services exemption is one of many exemptions that permit certain types of use without first obtaining permission from the copyright owner, or proving fair use. This article argues that the religious services exemption should be expanded to cover any work used in the course of services as well as the recording, broadcast, and transmission of the services.

The first part of this article analyzes the existing religious services exemption under the Copyright Act to define the bounds that uses fall under the exemption. The article then proceeds to present a proposal for expanding the exemption to accommodate the needs of modern religious organizations. Next, the article addresses the Establishment Clause and the constitutionality of the current religious services exemption. Thereafter, the article demonstrates that the religious services exemption can defeat an Establishment Clause challenge by expanding the exemption to cover non-religious ventures, such as teaching in general. Finally, the article examines traditional fair use under copyright law, specifically how the fair use analysis will apply to works used during the course of religious services.

The article concludes that the current religious services exemption is inadequate to meet the needs of a society of instant communication, which has changed the way religious organizations need to effectively communicate their religious messages. However, the proposed expansion would satisfy those needs as well as pass constitutional muster.