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Copyright Q&A for October 2013

Copyright Q&A for October 2013

By Christian Copyright Solutions on October 17, 2013

Here is  a question we received for our monthly Copyright Q&A feature. Answers are provided by Christian Copyright Solutions. Feel free to submit your questions to us. We answer as many as we can here on our site once a month.

Question: My church wants to begin to stream our services online, but we’re not sure what copyrights we’ll need to make sure we go about doing it legally. What do we need to know?

Answer: Streaming your services online can be an exciting new area of ministry for your church, and copyright licensing is certainly an important element to doing it right. 

A religious service exemption in the U.S. copyright law allows churches to perform and display certain copyrighted works in worship services, without permission or royalty payments. However, this exemption does not extend to webcasting. You’ll need to look at the various components of the service and determine whether you want to obtain the necessary licensing for each one, or leave them out of your webcast. Let’s look at each of these:

1. Songs
The songs that are played and performed live by your praise team, choir and/or congregation require streaming performance licensing. There are two blanket licenses of this type available to churches: the CCS WORSHIPcast License and the CCLI Church Streaming License. Here is a breakdown of the differences between the two:

CCS WORSHIPcast License

  • Covers over 17 million songs in the repertoires of ASCAP, BMI & SESAC
  • Covers live and archived streaming
  • Covers worship services AND other ministry events
  • Annual fees start at $225
  • CCLI Church Streaming License
  • Covers about 300,000 Christian songs
  • Covers live and archived streaming, and podcasting
  • Covers worship services only
  • Annual fees start at $50

2. Sound Recordings
If your services include the use of performance tracks or other original master recordings, you will need a master streaming performance license. CCS offers the LifeWay Worship Track Streaming License, which allows churches to stream over 1,200 original LifeWay Worship tracks. Other than this, there are no other blanket licenses available for streaming master recordings, so you will need to contact individual copyright owner(s) individually for permissions.

3. Lyrics
Many churches have reproduction licensing that allows them to legally copy lyrics for use on overhead projections (the CCLI Church Copyright License is the most popular license of this type). These licenses do cover you for presenting lyrics in your services, but they may not extend to showing those lyrics online. Check with your specific reproduction license company for information on what your license covers. If you are not permitted to present lyrics online, you have two alternatives: you can have your video camera point away from the lyrics, so they don’t appear online, or you can secure individual licensing from the copyright owner(s).

4. Videos
Although many churches have the CVLI License for the use of videos on the church premises, it does not allow churches to show videos online. Since audio is a component of videos, it is not enough just to cut away from the image. This portion of your service will need to be cut out both visually and audibly, or you will need to get the permission of the copyright owner(s).

5. Images
As with lyrics and videos, images will need to be excluded from what is shown online, or you will need to get the permission of the copyright owner(s).

6. Sermons
Sermons are, generally, the easiest permissions to get. You simply need to get the written approval of the pastor, or whomever wrote the original text.

If you do not want to cut out certain elements of your services that do require licensing, CCS professionals can assist you through the PERMISSIONSplus Service. For more information on legally webcasting you services, download our free “Copyright Issues for Webcasting Services” Fact Sheet.

The Christian Copyright Solutions answers provided are information, not legal advice. For more information and resources, including fact sheets, videos and idea kits, visit www.christiancopyrightsolutions.com. Use promo code “ABOUTWORSHIP” to receive 10% off the PERFORMmusic and WORSHIPcast Licenses and the PERMISSIONSplus Service.

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