Back in 2013, we posted a piece on copyright which was triggered by a news story about a congregation that had published a poem on its website and had then received a demand from the publisher for £7,000 in compensation for breach of copyright: it finally settled the claim for £1,500. Since then, life has moved on as the use of social media has become ever more widespread and activities such as live-streaming, in its infancy seven years ago, have become commonplace. The coronavirus pandemic has brought a new focus to copyright issues, as churches and other organizations seek to expand the streaming of services.
The Church of England’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance for churches has updated its Online Resources section with a blog on live streaming, which gives links to five churches which are streaming their services. In addition, it has posted A beginner’s guide to going live with your service or event for free which gives an overview of copyright and GDPR issues.
Our post covers:
- Copyright – the basic principles
- Is a particular work copyright or not?
- Activities that may involve copyright issues
- Live music during “divine service”
- Live streaming
- Some dos and don’ts
We start from the basic principle that one should always assume that material is copyright unless there is clear evidence that it is not: almost everything published since 1900 may possibly be copyright – and the newer the publication, the greater the likelihood that it is copyright material.
What is copyright?
Copyright is the intellectual property right belonging to the creators of original musical, literary and dramatic works. The basic legislation is still the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, as subsequently amended. The Act gives copyright owners economic and moral rights in their work – which means that they can charge anyone who wishes to copy, perform or record their work for any commercial or non-commercial use.
Under s.12 of the Act, the basic rule for literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works is that copyright persists for 70 years from the end of the calendar year in which the last remaining author of the work dies. The UK Copyright Service has a useful fact-sheet, last amended in 2017, which sets out the precise terms for each type of publication or work under the 1988 Act.
Breach of copyright is illegal. It may result in:
- an injunction/interdict to prevent a repetition of the breach;
- an order for payment of damages for past breaches; and
- an order to pay the costs of the legal proceedings.
In general, it is no defence for those who are sued to argue that their copying or public performance was for church, charitable or other public purposes.
Copyright/intellectual property organisations
Copyright is managed on behalf of the copyright-owners by a vast array of collection societies, each with different functions. The most important for churches and charities are these
- PRS for Music licenses organisations to play, perform or make available copyright music on behalf of its members;
- PPL licenses recorded music that is broadcast or played in public;
- the Copyright Licensing Agency licenses organisations on behalf of the copyright owner to copy and reuse extracts from copyright print and digital books, magazines and journals – the most obvious church use is photocopying copyright material.
It is likely, therefore, that a church or faith group will require a number of different licences to cover the range of activities normally undertaken that are subject to copyright, and it may be convenient to use the services of an organization such as Christian Copyright Licensing International (CCLI) which can provide most of them. However, it is important to note the exact scope of each licence and the items that are not covered.
Johann Sebastian Bach died in 1750 and all his music as he wrote it is long out of copyright. But if someone discovers a lost Bach motet, prepares a performing edition and publishes it, the resulting printed edition will be copyright. Similarly, a modern arrangement of a work by Bach will be copyright even though the original work is not. So you need to be very careful indeed before assuming that a particular piece is out of copyright.
Moreover, in (eg) a sound recording there may be several elements of copyright:
- a copyright in that particular performance;
- a separate copyright in the underlying musical composition;
- a further separate copyright in the words; and, possibly
- a further separate copyright in the musical arrangement.
- reproducing the words of hymns (eg in service sheets, or projected on a screen) to store them electronically and to print out the documents;
- photocopying music or words from hymnbooks;
- use of audio/visual recordings of music (eg at weddings);
- performing live music or playing music from a sound recording;
- photocopying from non-music publications and magazines for use in church activities;
- reproduction and electronic storage of copyrighted material such as photographs, songs, music, poems, literature and maps downloaded from the Internet; and
- live streaming.
Live music performed during “divine service” or at weddings or funerals is exempt. One of the organisations involved in the provision of licences to churches, and others, Christian Copyright Licensing International, states that “music played during regular worship services (known as Acts of Worship) does not currently require licensing” – but that exception does not cover music played at church social events.
- Do check that you have the correct, current licences for what you want to do.
- Don’t merely assume that any picture on the Internet is fair game: it isn’t. If you need a photograph, either take it yourself or use something from the huge range available at Wikimedia Commons – which is what we always do on this blog.
- Do be careful with quotations: brief quotes are acceptable but long ones may involve a breach of copyright. The UK Copyright Service states that “there is no magic figure or percentage that can be applied as each case must be viewed on its own merit”.
- Don’t just assume that no-one will notice if you ignore the rules: pictures on the Internet are often watermarked electronically and organisations such as Getty Images operate web-crawlers to look for unauthorised use.
In short, don’t simply assume that just because something is old it must be out of copyright – and do be careful.
Live streaming is NOT exempt. PRS for Music states that small digital services that offer on-demand streaming, permanent downloads, podcasts, webcasting and general entertainment content to a UK audience require an annual Limited Online Music Licence (LOML). Services are categorised as “small” if their annual gross revenue is less than £12,500. The licence covers the communication to the public and associated mechanical rights (excluding synchronisation) of PRS for Music’s members’ repertoire through digital services. The licence does not cover content on third-party websites and social media platforms such as YouTube or Facebook, nor does it not grant synchronisation rights: for further information on synchronisation rights, consult the PRS for Music web-page.
Update: The Royal School of Church Music has produced the following excellent review of live streaming, which is reproduced below, with permission.
Live Streaming of Church Services…
At present, there are a number of options:
- OneLicence.Net are offering a gratis licence up till April 15 2020. A ONE LICENSE licence grants churches, schools, religious communities, retreat centres, and other worshipping bodies permission to reprint or project music for their congregations from any of their Member Publishers. A ONE LICENSE Podcast / Streaming License grants permission to podcast or stream religious services that contain music from their Member Publishers. For new customers or for existing customers who do not already have a Podcast / Streaming License, ONE LICENSE is able to offer a one-month gratis license, valid through April 15, 2020. This would negate the need for a PRS licence during this period.
3. If a church wishes to host a live-stream on their own website then they can apply for a limited online music licence (LOML) from the PRS.
It should be noted that whilst OneLicense covers many publishers, including OCP, Oxford University Press, Stainer & Bell and Taizé, it doesn’t cover ThankYou Music or Integrity Music.
CCLI now offers a streaming licence. Their new Church Streaming Licence, combined with the Limited Online Music Licence (LOML) from PRS for Music, permits you to legally webcast your services, including the worship music.
The CCLI Streaming Licence provides coverage for every one of the songs covered under the CCLI Copyright Licence.
Coverage is immediate, so you can begin uploading services to your church website or other streaming platforms straightaway.
This post was updated on 23 March 2020 at 13:25, following the update to the RSCM guidance announced here.
On 30 April, the Church of England issued a new FAQ What is the guidance on live streaming and copyright? [scroll down].
FC & DP
[With our thanks to Matthew Chinery for unearthing the information on live streaming and to the RSCM for permission to reproduce its advice.]
Cite this article as: Frank Cranmer and David Pocklington, “Streaming church services: an (updated) guide to copyright and religion” in Law & Religion UK, 17 March 2020, updated 18 March 2020.