Copyright of images, music and text
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Copyright is an intellectual property protection which affects the use of liturgy, music, images and other resources or text in worship, online and in print. This page gives advice for working within the law. Using someone else’s intellectual property without permission can be both costly and embarrassing.
Images for use online and in print
It is important to ensure that you have permission to use images anywhere online – your website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – as well as in print. There is a common misperception that images online are in the public domain and can be reused. On the contrary, you cannot just find an image through google search and take it to use on your website. This can result in large fines. You should presume that all online content is copyright and you do not have permission to use it yourself without consent from the copyright holder.
Websites such as Unsplash and Freely offer beautiful free images licensed under Creative Commons Zero (CC0), or an equally useful equivalent/variation. You can copy, modify, distribute and use the photos free of charge, including for commercial purposes, without asking permission from or providing attribution to the photographer.
The website A Church Near You holds a catalogue of stock images that can be downloaded from the resources section of the parish page. Simply log on to the website which will allow you to amend your parish page in the newly updated format and with new features. While you are there, you can download a profusion of stock images for your website or social media.
Material from Common Worship is subject to copyright too. Full information about when permission to reproduce Common Worship text is required can be found on the copyright page on the Church of England’s website. If the material is going to be used in an act of worship, no application for permission is usually required. The CofE’s A Brief Guide to Liturgical Copyright, which is available via the copyright page, sets out when explicit permission is or is not required.
Copyright of hymns
Permission to reproduce copyright hymns should be obtained from the appropriate publisher. If you copy by any means, without permission or authority from the copyright owner or by not being covered by a copyright licence, your church could risk expensive legal action being taken against it.
Christian Copyright Licensing (CCLI)
There are a number of licences available to cover different church needs. The Music Reproduction Licence combined with the Church Copyright Licence allows churches to photocopy works and music from authorised catalogues. The Church Copyright Licence on its own allows the reproduction (not photocopying) of words only. Holders of the Church Copyright Licence can also purchase the Music Reproduction Licence which enables churches to photocopy authorised music from authorised publications. Licences and further details are available from Christian Copyright Licensing.
Streaming church services
In March 2020, CCLI launched a Streaming Licence for churches in the UK. 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.
The CCLI Streaming Licence permits you to stream or webcast on some social media platforms which are normally intended for personal, domestic use only, including YouTube or Facebook. If you are hosting the stream on your own church website, or via Zoom, you will also require a Limited Online Music Licence (LOML) from PRS for Music. See this section of the CCLI website for more information.
Further information may be obtained from the following bodies: