UMC Call to Action Copyright Questions

The following is the text of an e-mail just sent to the Abingdon Press permissions address, which appears on page 2 of the Call to Action Steering Team Report.

I have two questions regarding permissions and the Call to Action Steering Team Report (the “Report”).  I have published this e-mail on my blog:  I will post the official response to these two questions.  If it is instead easier for me to link to an official response, I will happily do so.

(I believe my previous blog postings constitute “fair use.”)


¶ 509 from The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church 2008 (the “Discipline”) reads:

Speaking for the Church—1. No person, no paper, no organization, has the authority to speak officially for The United Methodist Church, this right having been reserved exclusively to the General Conference under the Constitution. Any written public policy statement issued by a general Church agency shall clearly identify either at the beginning or at the end that the statement represents the position of that general agency and not necessarily the position of The United Methodist Church

The above paragraph concludes with a footnote referring to Judicial Council Decision 458.  I believe it is fair to summarize Decision No. 458 as stating that no agency may answer on behalf of The United Methodist Church, or sue on behalf of The United Methodist Church, in any legal proceedings.

In addition, ¶ 140 from the Discipline states:

Under the Constitution and disciplinary procedures set forth in this Book of Discipline, “The United Methodist Church” as a denominational whole is not an entity, nor does it possess legal capacities and attributes. It does not and cannot hold title to property, nor does it have any officer, agent, employee, office, or location.  Conferences, councils, boards, agencies, local churches, and other units bearing the name “United Methodist” are, for the most part, legal entities capable of suing and being sued and possessed of legal capacities.

The notice of copyright in the Discipline (page iv) reads:

Copyright © 2008 The United Methodist Publishing House.

The first notice of copyright in the Report (page 2) reads:

Copyright © 2010 by The United Methodist Church

Based on the above discussion, I find it difficult to believe that The United Methodist Church is the copyright owner of the Report.  Even in the extremely unlikely event that the General Conference has already adopted the Report (perhaps by meeting secretly in 2010), it would make even less sense for the General Conference to consign the Report’s copyright to a “denominational whole” incapable of both ownership and litigating infringement claims.

In addition to the above first notice of copyright, the Report contains other notices of copyright that read “© 2010 Towers Watson. All rights reserved.”  These notices of copyright appear on pages 46 through 99 inclusive.  If the Towers Watson contribution constituted work made for hire, typically Towers Watson should not have any claim of copyright for these pages of the Report.


  1. Who owns the copyright to the Call to Action Steering Team Report?
  2. Does Towers Watson have any copyright ownership regarding the Call to Action Steering Team Report?

Thank you.

S. B. Wiegner

[UPDATE 2012-04-08] No response.  I understand that this might not have technically been a “permissions question”, but still . . .  Anyway, there are other ways of seeking answers to my questions.