Shame on Google

photo credit Debbi Smirnoff
photo credit Debbi Smirnoff

So it seems Google—that search engine magnate labeled the most powerful brand in the world—doesn’t feel the need to compensate its creative talent.

Last week, The New York Times wrote of Google’s invitation to prominent artists to contribute artwork for its new Google Chrome browser.

Compensation? None.

Understandably, many of these artists felt somewhat hung out to dry. And, admirably, as much as they’d love Google’s exposure, many rejected it with outspoken opinions.

How does that relate to us and our work of communicating Christ?

Certainly, it doesn’t, right? After all, our churches don’t have the multi-billion dollar income of Google’s. Nor do we share its wordly mission. The church is excluded from respecting the work of creatives because, after all, it’s for the Lord, right?


God blesses people with creative talents, of which many use  to earn a living. They study their craft and spend great time developing it. Their work, known as intellectual property, deserves respect. God also commands us to respect our nation’s laws and says,  “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men…” (1 Peter 2:13).

Here are a few things to keep in mind as we show Christian respect to creatives and our laws.

  • Graphic design, illustrations, photography, music and written words are all exclusively owned by their creators, including those posted on the Internet. To use them without permission violates the U.S. Copyright Law. It’s stealing.
  • Fair Use, a section of the copyright law, offers a little leeway. However, it’s very ambiguous and contextual, and churches shouldn’t feel it offers complete exemption from the law. Church Marketing Sucks posted an interesting discussion on how it applies to religious organizations.
  • Professionals work hard to create their craft. Just as a church compensates a plumber or electrician, so should it compensate a professional artist.
  • Many professionals donate projects out of love for God and their church. Pro-bono, however, does not mean “no value, no time or no effort.” Creative work can command $50-150/hr., elsewhere. Respect this work. Respect the professional’s time, just as you would someone you were paying.

2 thoughts on “Shame on Google”

  1. I appreciate this post. I’m a graphic designer for my church. Most of the time it’s rewarding and something I hope to do as an expression of my faith. Sometimes, it’s frustrating.

    Two things stand out. First, many churches don’t understand the value of good design. Good design is not just looking pretty. It’s the deciding factor between success or failure to communicate a message. If good design matters so little, why are successful corporations willing to spend millions on their communications?

    Secondly, churches often don’t abide by business ethics. Hopefully it’s not intentional, rather because they don’t know any better. But, as the saying goes, ignorance of the law excuses no one. Neither does working for the Lord.

  2. Rick Warren did the same thing, sort of, when he held a contest for the design of his book cover.

    Professional graphic designers call this spec work. And we say No Spec!

    What this means is, of Warren’s 3000 applicants, it’s likely a majority of them were non-professionals or start-ups grasping for recognition. The work he received is sub-par because the designer had no way of taking into account the audience of the book, the objective of its message, and the overall concept Warren was seeking for his cover. All of this is extremely important to good design.

    Good design isn’t just about looking pretty. It’s about communicating a message. How can Warren’s cover effectively communicate his book’s message, if the designer never knew its concept?

    Warren would have been better off using his $5000 to hire one professional designer and sit down with him/her and brainstorm.


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