Watch out for copyright issues

May 7, 2020

Those churches wishing to include music, hymns or songs as part of their online worship should make themselves aware of copyright restrictions.

Churches should not assume that easy public availability (e.g. online), or the existence or creation of a local recording of a piece of music, means that there is no copyright issue.

It should also be kept in mind that a hymn could have two forms of copyright – one for the music, and one for the lyrics. One or more streaming licences may also be required. Again, avoid assuming that holding one licence will cover the use of all pieces of music. Check if the licence includes the material you wish to use.

Ascertaining copyright can be a complicated and time-consuming process, as can be the securing of permissions to use a particular piece. Often the licensor will require a fee to be paid to cover the composer/artist’s income. CLAS (Churches’ Legislation Advisory Service) has produced helpful guidance on copyright and the live streaming of services, which can be accessed here on pages 5 and 6: