A detailed summary of the law of copyright as it applies to Churches is beyond the scope of this note but a variety of Church activities may contravene copyright legislation such as:
- Printing a service that includes certain hymns/songs, liturgy from a published source or Bible passages;
- Copying extra music scores for musicians;
- Staging a dramatic production from an external source;
- Playing a commercially purchased sound recording (CD, MP3 etc) of music for aerobics in the church hall.
General information on how to adopt a congregational copyright policy to ensure compliance with the law is available from:
Christian Copyright Licensing International (CCLI):
22 Upperton Road
Website address: www.ccli.co.uk
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Telephone: 01323 436103
The CCLI have produced information sheets for worship leaders, songwriters and those involved in the leadership of the church: https://uk.ccli.com/who-we-serve/churches/
2. Reproducing Songs and Hymns
In relation to the reproduction of the words and music of many hymns and popular worship songs, the Church Copyright Licence and the Music Reproduction Licence are available from CCLI, as above.
Such licences permit the electronic storage and retrieval of hymns and songs for use through a projection system, the creation of service sheets containing the words of hymns and songs, the photocopying of music scores from popular authorised music publications, the production of acetates of the words of hymns and songs for use on an overhead acetate.
3. Playing and Performing Music
In relation to the performance of music, the PRS for Music Church Licence and the PPL Church Licence are available from CCLI, as above.
The PRS for Music has been issuing licences for the performance of music in Churches and Church halls. “Music uses” include (by way of illustration only): Concerts and recitals; Discos and dances; Keep fit classes; Film or video shows; Background music by means of TV or radio; Tape, record, CD, video players and juke boxes at events such as coffee mornings, youth clubs, fetes, bazaars and so on.
Where “music use” is confined to Acts of Divine Worship, no licence is required. Christian Copyright Licensing International (contact details as above) now act as agents for the PRS Church Licence and further information is available from them.
If sound recordings are played during church activities, or during direct activities of the church in the local community (church fêtes, outreach events etc) you now require a PPL Church Licence (PPL was formerly known as Phonographic Performance Ltd). There are, however, a series of exceptions:
- Divine worship: PPL has agreed that a church does not require a licence for worship, matching the arrangement with the Performing Right Society for music.
- Weddings and funerals are deemed domestic occasions rather than public ones. However, if the wedding or funeral is being audio or video recorded (on a video camera or phone) while sound recordings are being played then those making the recording require a Limited Manufacture Licence, available from www.prsformusic.com/lm.
- Church Home Groups are deemed domestic occasions, not public ones.
- Live concerts do not require a PPL Church Licence if only live music is played – but if copyright music is played live they will require a PRS for Music Church Licence.
- Private functions such as birthday and Christmas parties are deemed domestic occasions.
The General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church does not accept responsibility for any loss or liability which may arise from reliance on information or expressions of opinion contained in this document.
General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church
Scottish Charity No SC015962