Chances are you have listened to a sermon on the internet, or viewed a church worship video made available through a website. Perhaps you’re considering making your church sermons available online as downloadable podcasts, or your whole church service as a live stream?
As churches increasingly embrace the potential of the internet and social media, new copyright considerations come into play. The following information will help you understand your legal and moral responsibilities when considering live streaming your services, or recording them to upload to a website.
Streaming church services
The CCLI Streaming and Streaming Plus licences provide a solution for churches wishing to stream or webcast their services, including the live worship. While the Streaming Licence permits live worship music to be performed as part of the online service, the Streaming Plus Licence also permits master recordings (e.g. artist tracks or backing tracks) and multi-tracks (e.g. loops, stems and community tracks) to be used as part of the steam or webcast. Both Streaming Licences include the right to display lyrics as part of the stream, to enable viewers to sing along. Recordings of services can remain online as long as your Streaming Licence is maintained.
CCLI Streaming Licences permit you to stream or webcast on some social media platforms which are normally intended for personal, domestic use only, including YouTube or Facebook. If you are hosting the stream on your own church website, or via Zoom, you may also require a Limited Online Music Licence (LOML) directly from PRS for Music.
We recommend always checking the terms and conditions of a streaming or video-sharing platform before using it to stream your services. Never assume that such websites or apps permit you either to upload copyrighted-material or play content from them in a public setting without a licence or permission.
You do not need a licence to stream or webcast the sermon only, but should always have the permission of the speaker before uploading their talk.
The word podcast typically describes a serialised or edited recording made available to download and is protected in the same way as any other copyrighted work made available on the internet. Recording sermons and making them available for download would be regarded as a podcast.
A podcast which includes no third-party copyright material would not require a licence. You do still need to ask permission from all contributors before you record, broadcast or distribute their performance. If your Podcasts include worship songs, you may require one of CCLI’s Streaming Licences.
Recording your services
Audio or video recording a church meeting, including weddings, carol services or big celebrations, is a great way of capturing a meeting for those not able to attend, or for archive. However, a number of permissions are required before you make an audio or video recording of a worship service, wedding or funeral.
Your church will hopefully hold a Church Copyright Licence (CCL), usually obtained for the projection or printing out of hymns and worship song words. However, in the UK the CCL also includes a Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society (MCPS) right which permits churches to record live music during their services. Note: This right does not cover recordings made for commercial purposes, for which you’ll need a Limited Manufacture Licence (LM) from PRS for Music.
You’ll also require an LM if you intend to record a service during which music is played from a commercial recording such as a CD or MP3 (known as dubbing). Visit prsformusic.com/LM for details.
Note, if you are streaming your services or posting service recordings online for wider viewing or participation you are likely to need one of CCLI’s Streaming Licences.
It’s always good practice to ask all the musicians, singers, readers, speakers etc. for their consent before recording their ’performance’, especially if you intend to make copies for sale or free distribution.
For further information or advice, contact CCLI on 01323 436100 or visit our website.
The MCPS (Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society) acts on behalf of composers and publishers and provides a number of licences for churches wishing to distribute or upload music recordings. Contact with MCPS is currently made via PRS for Music. Find out more at prsformusic.com.