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.
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, 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 CCLI recommends you contact IMRO directly for guidance.
You’re also likely to need an IMRO licence 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).
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.
Streaming church services
In response to customer demand, CCLI launched a Streaming Licence for churches Ireland in March 2020. This licence provides a solution for churches wishing to stream or webcast their services, including the live worship, as video and audio. The Streaming Licence includes the right to show lyrics as part of the stream, to enable viewers to sing along. If you are hosting the stream on your own church website you will also require an Online Music Licence from IMRO.
The CCLI Streaming Licence permits you to stream or webcast on platforms which are normally intended for personal, domestic use only, such as YouTube or Facebook Live. We recommend always checking the terms and conditions of the site you wish to use for streaming/webcasting, and never assume that such sites 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.
For further information or advice, contact CCLI on +44 (0)1323 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.