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Streaming Worship Services and Copyrights in a Time of Social Distancing

In an age of social distancing and remote, online worship due to COVID-19, churches are figuring out how to honor copyrights in entirely new ways, and companies are giving special allowances during this time.

Copyright: A Basic Overview

There are two main copyright license granting companies in the United States: OneLicense.net and CCLI.com. These companies manage the money and rights for many smaller copyright firms. Each company manages different copyright holders. OneLicense.net manages the copyrights for GIA Publications, Inc. (includes Taizé music, Tony Alonso music, and many others), World Library Press, OCP, Faith Alive Christian Resources, Oxford University Press, Lorenz Publishing Group, Choristers Guild, and others. You can view a complete list of OneLicense.net's publishers hereCCLI.com manages for many other companies such as EMI CMG, Hillsong United, and others. You can view a complete list of CCLI.com's publishers here. Churches can choose to purchase reprint licenses from either or both companies depending on what songs they want to use in their worship services.

Registering use of the song with the company is required if you take a song from its original context, that is:

  • Copying music and/or lyrics from a hymnal for distribution
  • Printing music and/or lyrics from an online source for distribution
  • Reprinting music and/or lyrics in a bulletin or on a screen
  • Streaming music on a streaming service

Copyright for Streaming Videos

For many churches, streaming is a new medium. For some churches, this means a small group pre-recording the service or part of the service. For others, this means worshiping together on a streaming service like Zoom or Skype.

In order to stream any copyrighted music (congregational songs, preludes, postludes, offertories), in whichever form you broadcast services, your church should obtain a streaming license so authors, composers, and artists are well compensated. During the COVID-19 pandemic, both OneLicense.net and CCLI.com are offering discounts, for their streaming services.

When streaming, in whichever form you use, it’s important to give credit to the authors, composers, and artists who have written any music used in the service. This allows your congregation to know what you’re singing and who wrote it, gives credit to the authors, composers, and artists, and communicates that you have paid (through the streaming license fees) for the use and streaming permissions. Without these permissions, YouTube is within its rights to take your video down. Along with copyright information, you must also post one of these two phrases, where appropriate:

Author, composer, and copyright information
All rights reserved. Reprinted under OneLicense.net #_______________.

Author, composer, and copyright information
Used by permission. CCLI #_______________.

Permission Allowances by Authors and Composers

Some authors and composers are, in the time of COVID-19, allowing gratis permission for their works. For details about what each person is offering, check out the links below:

Learn More

To learn more about this process and why copyrights are important even in this unusual time, consider listening to this helpful webinar from OneLicense.net.

For more information on copyrights, see this page from the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship that helps clear up confusion about what you can or cannot do with copyrights.

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