Sunday, September 14, 2014

a possible study in contrasts, the difference between whether Mars Hill musicians and Mars Hill pastors own the rights to their works

It is probably the case that what Wenatchee The Hatchet is about to discuss is a distinction that would be most noticed by writers and musicians.  For those who have read this blog for a long time, Wenatchee The Hatchet highlighted something back on September 28, 2013.
For those who don't want to follow a link ... here's a jpg of what was discussed, now with more fully realized graphics

the date is actually approximate and just indicates the time zone in which the content was given to WtH.

To offset a particular little passage, check this out

I also wanted to take a moment to say thank you for purchasing resources from our local Mars Hill bookstores. As a gift to the church, all of our authors and musicians do not earn royalties on any material sold in our bookstores—all of the proceeds go entirely to the church.
So Turner made a point of saying that all of "our authors and musicians" do not earn royalties on any material sold in Mars Hill bookstores.  All of the proceeds would go entirely to the church.
So when Dustin Kensrue releases his first worship album next month, or if you’ve bought a copy of the Ten Commandments Study Guide, all sales at Mars Hill go right back to Mars Hill. This has been a huge blessing to our church over time. For example, in the last ten years, our bookstores have sold over 60,000 copies of Pastor Mark’s books alone, which equates to a gift of more than $200,000!
That would be ...
via Mars Hill Music
So who owns the intellectual property here?  The individual musicians?  Not likely if "as a gift to the church" none of the musicians earn any royalties on material sold in the bookstores.  It's possible, but Mars Hill might want to clarify how and why that is because anyone who does even a cursory glance at books published by Mars Hill Church pastors via The Resurgence can see that in many cases the copyright of the material is owned by the pastor.
For instance, let's just cite Dave Bruskas' Dear Son as an example to consider.
The copyright is to Dave Bruskas, not Mars Hill Church. Now because the book is published through Resurgence, which would appear to be the for-profit company governed entirely by John Sutton Turner.
It would potentially be simple for Resurgence Publishing Inc. to keep track of how many books sold through what avenues and decide to withhold or distribute royalties on that basis.  So if Turner's September 2013 missive played out then any books sold by Dave Bruskas at Mars Hill Church bookstores would send all the royalties back solely to Mars Hill Church but if Dave Bruskas sold copies of Dear Son via or through the Resurgence online store the royalties "should" go back to Dave Bruskas, right?
As a reference point to none other than the book in 2013, A Call to Resurgence itself, the copyright for that book is to On Mission, LLC and Mark Driscoll.  Since the copyright to Real Marriage was just with On Mission, LLC, it remains to be clarified why A Call to Resurgence was registered with a copyright to both the LLC and to Mark Driscoll as an individual.  Can Mars Hill Church establish that the royalties for sales of Driscoll's 2013 book within Mars Hill Church bookstores went only to Mars Hill Church?  This shouldn't be hard to prove if it's what happened.
Meanwhile if, say, King's Kaleidiscope were to put out a new album and Mars Hill Church and associates didn't want to do that because of the financially difficult season the band members would probably have to go and buy the rights back to their own music from whomever at Mars Hill owns the intellectual property just so they could release an album of their own material.
One of the questions that needs to be kept on the table is whether there is a double standard at work between the intellectual property and sales of the leadership set vs. the rank-and-file.  Do the royalties for the sales of Dave Bruskas' book when it is sold within Mars Hill bookstore settings go entirely to the church?  If so why does Bruskas have the copyright to his book while it looks as though the copyright for music belongs to Mars Hill Music?  And that gets back to what happened to Mars Hill Music.  The memo from March 2012 published by Throckmorton mentioned the assessment that the Mars Hill Music project wasn't "sustainable" two months before Driscoll publicly announced "we're starting a record label". 
So if Mars Hill Music was not considered sustainable circa March 2012 why did Mark Driscoll publicly announce the launch of the music label anyway?  Did problems get fixed?  Since Mars Hill Music ended up partnering with Tooth & Nail/BEC less than  year after Driscoll talked about the label launch the answer to that question would appear to an outsider to be "no"; Mars Hill Music tanked in potentially the same way and for the same reasons that Tim Smith's project Re:Sound tanked ... but without some public accounting of what went on and why no one will know.
It does raise more questions about the necessity of financial transparency.  If Mars Hill launched six campuses inside of five months and did the Real Marriage campaign (replete with Result Source Inc contract and attendant activity) why on earth did Driscoll move forward in May 2012 announcing the plan to launch a record label?  Historically this makes sense because Driscoll always wanted, from the start of Mars Hill, for the church to be a movement that launched a record label ... but on financial and infrastructural grounds what was the point in publicly announcing the plan to launch a record label just a couple of months after this March 2012 memo indicated that Mars Hill was in a financial mess?  For those keeping track of the broader history Mary 2012 was also when the Driscolls bought a house in Snohomish County.
At this point there should not only be questions about the transparency of governance but also about whether there are different standards for leaders vs followers within Mars Hill on the subject of intellectual property.  Is it possible that the leadership set has sustained a pattern where the pastors get the copyright and ownership of their own books while the church's musicians have all their music treated by Mars Hill and its corporate affiliations and tools as work-for-hire?
If there are any past or current Mars Hill musicians who are willing and also at liberty to clarify anything on this point they're welcome to comment. 


ExeGe said...

Maybe you know this, but Chad from King's Kaleidescope said that after he and the band left Mars Hill (both as employees and as members/attenders) they asked to take their previously recorded but unreleased record with them from Mars Hill Music.

MHM refused.

KK offered to buy the record from them (which seems a bit generous given that most of the band are not on staff and donated their time to record the music)

MHM also refused that.

KK went on to re-record the record themselves to release in partnership with Bad Christian Records.

Reference is here:

Additionally (no source I can reference), after Zach Bolen left and took Citizens with him MHM was closed and the guy in charge (Jon Dunn) quit.

After Citizens left, MH offered to sell the masters to KK to raise money, but since they had already re-recorded, they declined.

Brian Metzger said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

ExeGe, heard some of that but not all of it.

One of the things that's interesting about where things get produced is that it is a basis from which to determine whether the work may be considered work-for-hire. So when Driscoll has mentioned rarely ever going into the offices and doing a lot of work from home that could be billed as a way to avoid sexual temptation but a practical consequence of taking that approach is that if he never writes his books in church offices it could explain how and why he's retained the intellectual property for nearly everything he's published since 2004. By contrast, it's looking like the musicians of Mars Hill were potentially not even given an option whether or not they retained ownership of their creations. Perhaps Mars Hill can clarify that at some point?

Adam Dolhanyk said...

One of the things that often gets confusing in discussions of intellectual copyright law is that people think it's the same across the board. The law for VHS is not the same as the case law for MP3.

A MHC author may hold the copyright, but you never see a musician own the "masters' or keep the copyright unless they are under a self funding deal. (King's K has this arrangement with T&N and BadChristian, CCM bands like MercyMe also use this method)

Should MHM and MHC just sold the masters to Kings K? sure. really, they probably should have just given it to them as chalked it up as severance.

The real question is the publishing/royalties deals that were arranged. If Air1 or KLove plays a Citizens song, do the band members see any of that $$ the way a normal band in a normal arrangement would? or were they hosed over while MHC authors were not.

MHM has always been interesting to me for a number of reasons (one is that I'm a worship leader and I like the music). But in relationship to this blog, MHM is the only part of MHC I can think of that promoted something other than the Driscoll brand.

jealouscellist said...

I learned recently that MHM as a whole was shut down. Does anyone know details about this; when it shut, why, etc...? Are there documents published that refer to this?

I know Zach Bolen, Jon Dunn, and Dustin Kensrue left the church during the summer, but are Brian Eichelberger, Cam Huxford, et. al. still there? Any information welcome!