‘Can we show YouTube videos in our church?’ remains one of CCLI’s most often asked questions.
And no wonder. Video-sharing websites such as YouTube offer a treasure trove of content for almost every conceivable situation. However, as the sheer volume of content and the number of channels become almost immeasurable, understanding if and when you can show them in church becomes ever more challenging.
So is it okay to stream content from video sharing websites like YouTube during your church services and activities? While our answer focuses mainly on YouTube, the same principles can be applied to many other websites offering free video-streaming.
Using YouTube in church
Put simply, YouTube’s videos can be shown in a public church meeting provided the video is on an official channel and you have permission from the copyright owner.
YouTube’s terms of service specify that content on the site should only be accessed for ‘personal, non-commercial use’ (5.L.) except where ‘prior written consent’ has been given by ‘YouTube or the respective licensors of the content’ (5.M.).
Not all videos uploaded to YouTube have been done so by, or with the permission of, the copyright owner or licensor. If you’re in doubt, we recommend finding an alternative or sourcing the content in an alternative format, such as a DVD or legal download. If the content has been uploaded by an official source, the permission you need to show it may be obtained in a number of ways…
Showing scenes from feature films
The Church Video Licence from CCLI permits films and film scenes from authorised studios/producers to be shown in church.
In this case the Church Video Licence is considered consent from the respective licensor (the copyright owner). You must take reasonable steps to ensure that the scene has been uploaded by the copyright owner or someone authorised by the owner to do so. If the scene has been uploaded by the film studio’s own YouTube channel, or that of an official partner, you can be confident you’re viewing content from an official source. Film studios may have agreements with third parties to upload their content for them. In this case, check carefully that the channel is an official one.
If a film scene has been uploaded to YouTube by an individual, e.g. a fan of the film, then it should not be deemed covered by the Church Video Licence and consequently it should not be shown during church activities.
Showing ‘lyric videos’
Song videos that show the lyrics so that you can sing along to them are increasingly common on YouTube. However, CCLI recommends that you only show them in a worship service or other public setting with the consent of the publisher or copyright owner.
Often, such videos are uploaded to YouTube and then embedded on the publisher’s website with details of how they permit it to be used. If the description of the video on the publisher’s website or YouTube channel indicates that they intend it to be used in a church service, then this would constitute consent. However, if there is any doubt, CCLI recommend you contact the publisher or copyright owner for permission before showing the video.
As a general rule, CCLI recommends that you don’t use YouTube to show any other videos without the explicit permission of the copyright owner.
YouTube’s terms of service are intended to indemnify it against responsibility for the content uploaded on the site. With a staggering 400 hours of video being uploaded to YouTube every minute, it simply cannot control or police everything that is added to the site. It’s likely that many videos on YouTube infringe copyright, either accidentally or deliberately.
Of course, there are exceptions. For example, a charity who writes to a church encouraging them to show their latest video using YouTube is clearly permitting it to be used in this way.
Otherwise, it may be possible to obtain the video you wish to show from another source. Again, always check the terms and conditions of any website from which you wish to stream or download content and satisfy yourself that that website is authorised by the copyright owner to make that content available.
If in doubt, it is usually possible to establish who owns the copyright. Seeking their direct permission is the safest way to ensure that you’re acting legally and doing the right thing.
As always, CCLI’s Customer Service team are here to help. Please contact us if you have any queries.