Copyright Guidance

Copyright guidance for remote worship

Background

While most churches have now returned to worship in person following the pandemic, lots of churches are still streaming services. Many churches have also moved away from using hard copy books for music and liturgy towards using screens in church. The FAQs below aim to provide information and advice on copyright issues that may arise when sharing worship on screen and online.

These flowcharts provide an overview of copyright issues:

Electronic worship resource documents

Online worship

You can visit copyright guidance for Singing the Faith here.

The key point to remember about copyright is that anything that you have not created entirely from scratch is ‘third-party material.’ Third party material will always have a copyright holder. Sometimes they may choose to waive their rights, or the duration of the copyright may have expired, making the material public domain. Use of the material without the copyright holder’s permission, correct licence, or other concession, infringes their copyright.

If you have permission to use third-party materials, they should always be clearly credited in full (title, author, publisher, year, ISBN and any web link). There is no automatic permission to include short sections of third-party material in worship resources or in online worship. Following the guidance below will enable you to identify copyrighted material and how to use it correctly.

Online worship is now very common and there is more sharing of worship resources electronically, but you are not automatically covered by the licences and concessions (e.g. from CCLI (Christian Copyright Licensing International) and ONE LICENSE) that you may use for standard church services. Some of the usual copyright guidelines were relaxed to take account of the changes to worship in response to the unprecedented circumstances of the pandemic; however, most of these concessions have been removed and you must check that you now have the correct licences in place for any electronic resources and online worship.

This guide helps to explain the options available, including materials that are available under licences and concessions. We also advise where materials may need permissions instead. If permission is needed, it should always be granted before you use the material. It can take time to get permission and it may also come with a fee, so you may want to avoid using material that needs permission, wherever possible.

To support Methodist churches in their use of copyrighted worship materials the Methodist Church has issued a temporary copyright waiver.

 COVID-19 copyright waiver, extended:

The Methodist Church in Britain has made some copyright concessions during the pandemic, which allow any use of content that is our exclusive copyright in any worship context by any medium or method, providing it is non-commercial, extended to the end of August 2023, and providing it is acknowledged:
‘Used with permission. [Details of content] from [details of publication/source] © Trustees for Methodist Church Purposes. The Methodist Church in Britain’.

This includes any of our own original materials in the Methodist Worship Book (see section on Methodist Worship Book below). Other material which is © Trustees for Methodist Church Purposes includes many of the materials on our website and videos on the Methodist Church YouTube channel.

The guidance below is for any online worship resources, including live streams (real time audio or video broadcasts online), meetings (including chat and messaging platforms) and podcasts (electronic audio or video recordings). It has been updated now that COVID restrictions have been lifted.

It is worth checking that you do not have any resources still online which feature materials included under temporary COVID concessions that have now expired, unless you have the correct current licence coverage or permissions. If left unlicensed, you risk copyright holders taking legal action against you, which may result in fines or other penalties. 

GDPR

You must always make sure that you follow the latest GDPR guidelines. Contact details should only be used for the purpose for which the person gave you consent to use them. They must be kept secure and, if emailing lots of contacts at once, use BCC ('blind carbon copy') so recipients cannot see the other addresses. Users in group messaging or conference calls should be made aware that other users may see some details (e.g. phone numbers in WhatsApp) and must give consent for this before joining or being added to groups.

Standalone worship resources

These are documents that you may send electronically or by post for private reflection and worship. They might take the form of bulletins, worship aids or ‘pew sheets’. They may also be intended to accompany any live video, streaming, messaging or conference call. There are additional guidelines below for online materials, hosted on websites for example. We recommend that any electronic versions are sent out in a non-editable format, such as .pdf, to prevent any issues with formatting or content.  

If you are sending documents through private means, such as email, conferencing (e.g. Zoom or Skype) or messaging (e.g. WhatsApp) then copyright still applies.

Online worship

For clarity, we use the term ‘online worship’, to cover all formats, including live streams (real time audio or video broadcasts online) and podcasts (electronic audio or video recordings) as well as conference platforms (Skype, Zoom, Teams, etc) and messaging on services like WhatsApp.

Below are different types of third-party content and some guidelines to using them in online worship.

If you have signed up for a streaming, conferencing or messaging platform, make sure you are aware of all terms and conditions, including copyright and privacy requirements. 

 

Can I use liturgy in worship documents or online worship?

Most liturgy is copyrighted and you need permission from the copyright holders to use it in worship resources or online worship.

COVID-19 copyright waiver:

The Methodist Church in Britain has made some copyright concessions during the pandemic, which allow any use of content that is our exclusive copyright in any worship context by any medium or method, providing it is non-commercial, extended to the end of August 2023, and providing it is acknowledged as:
‘Used with permission. [Details of content] from [details of publication/source] © Trustees for Methodist Church Purposes. The Methodist Church in Britain’.
This includes any of our own original materials in the Methodist Worship Book (see section on Methodist Worship Book
below).

Be careful to note that some materials in the Methodist Worship Book are not original to The Methodist Church in Britain and are the intellectual property of other copyright holders. Those items are listed in the Acknowledgements section and need separate permission from the copyright holder in order to be used.

Permission is needed to use selected prayers, seasonal material, collects and the lectionary. These are not covered by the waiver as The Methodist Church in Britain does not hold the rights for these. All of these materials are listed on pp.601-605 in the Methodist Worship Book, in the Acknowledgements section. Use of these would need permission from the listed copyright holders. If in doubt, you could use the opportunity to create a new prayer or collect that is suitable for this situation. 

We recommend using only liturgy from the Methodist Worship Book or from the English Language Liturgical Consultation (ELLC). For more information about ELLC, please see below. Any other liturgy would need permission from the copyright holders.

The following liturgical texts in the Methodist Worship Book are from from Praying Together, by the English Language Liturgical Consultation (ELLC):

  • Glory to God in the highest
  • The Nicene Creed
  • The Apostles' Creed
  • Sursum Corda
  • Sanctus
  • Benedictus Qui Venit
  • Agnus Dei, Gloria Patri
  • Te Deum Laudamus
  • Benedictus
  • Magnificat
  • Nunc Dimittis
  • The left hand column version [your/sin/trial] of the Lord's Prayer

ELLC have a number of liturgical resources on their website and they advise: 
The texts in Praying Together may be used freely and without the need for prior permission. The liturgical text(s) should be properly acknowledged.
Their confirmed acknowledgement should be in the following format:
English translations of (text), © [copyright symbol] 1998, International Consultation on English Texts (ICET), and used by permission. www.englishtexts.org

If you include any material from Praying Together in your document, be certain to credit the ELLC source fully, as directed. It is helpful for the ELLC to be informed of the use of these texts, so that it can monitor their use. They ask you to notify them of any use at: englishtexts.org/contact-us

Please note: There is more information about the copyright licences your church may hold in the Hymns and Songs for Worship section below, but be aware that the licences issued by ONE LICENSE are specifically only for authorised music, so do not cover any liturgy. In contrast, the CLA Church Licence from CCLI allows copying from the listed non-music publications, such as liturgy, for distribution under certain circumstances, including email. To see if a liturgical publication is covered by the CLA licence, you can use the Check Permissions tool here: cla.co.uk.

For the CLA licence to work, the materials used must be exactly as the original and you should check the terms, following all of the directions for use, crediting and reporting. Any materials produced by you should be intended for your own congregations; if you are a smaller affiliate of a larger mother church, you must check whether you need your own licences, as the mother church’s licence may not cover you. If you are adapting or editing materials, you must get specific permission from the copyright holder, as the CLA licence does not cover this.

Some liturgies themselves permit retyping for use in church services, but these are intended for ‘pew sheets’ or Orders of Service for special events like weddings and baptisms, to be used only on the premises and not for remote worship, which would need permission.

Can I use scripture in worship documents or online worship?

Certain Bible copyright holders (see below for examples) offer a generous ‘fair use’ guideline, allowing up to 500 verses per document, so long as this does not amount to a complete book of the Bible, nor account for 25% or more of the total word count of your document. Every scripture quotation used within this guideline must be marked up with the book, chapter and verse, as well as the any acronym requested by the copyright holder, in addition to any credit line, unless otherwise directed. These guidelines do not always cover the use of verses in 'new media', so you must check carefully before including them in any online worship.

All of the copyrights for the psalms, scripture readings and scripture sentences in the Methodist Worship Book are held by other parties, but it might be possible to use some of these if you check and follow the individual Bible guidelines and correctly cite the source in your document or remote worship.

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), New Revised Standard Version Updated (NRSVue) and Revised Standard Version (RSV)

These versions may be used for electronic documents or in worship resources on websites within the ‘fair use’ guidelines given above. Every scripture quotation used must be marked up [NRSV] or [RSV] accordingly. You do not need to put in a source credit to the Bible edition itself, so long as you use the acronyms requested, as they class resource documents like these as non-saleable media. You can see the details of their terms here.

These versions may not be used for other audio, video or any other online purposes without permission, so cannot be used in online worship. They may only be used in electronic media if these come under their definition of non-saleable media (which include ‘bulletins, orders of service, newsletters, class handouts, transparencies or other presentation media’ by churches), so could be included in documents designed to accompany the online worship. They specifically advise: “The Fair Use Guidelines do not apply to Phone Applications, or other New Media Platforms (web sites, apps, etc.).” For more information, see here.
These versions are not recommended for online worship in any format. 

Please note this does not include the Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition (RSV-2CE), which requires a permission check with the copyright holder before any use. 

New International Version (NIV)

This version may be used for electronic documents or in worship resources on websites within the ‘fair use’ guidelines given above.

The NIV guidelines state that emailing is permitted; verses do not require an acronym credit, but the Bible edition must be credited in full somewhere on the document or in the online worship. They advise: 

Notice of copyright must appear on the title or copyright page as follows:
“Scripture quotations taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV® Copyright © 1973 1978 1984 2011 by Biblica, Inc. TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.”

You can see the full details of their terms here.

The NIV may be used for audio-only recordings, but permission must be requested for use in any other type of online worship, including as a closed caption or projected text. This version is not recommended for online worship using any streaming format, recorded video, or other image usage. 

Streaming scripture in online worship 

As you can see, the main versions detailed above do not generally permit use in online worship, but there are other ways to accommodate scripture. Worshippers can be directed to read specific verses in their own copies of the Bible after the worship by referring them to the book, chapter and verse. This information can be given in any format and does not require permission, so long as the verse text itself is not used.
 
Alternatively, in an electronic document, you can include a link to a website such as biblegateway.com or any other reputable online scripture resource that clearly states they have the permission to use the material.

Can I use hymns and songs (lyrics, scores, audio or video) in worship resources or in online worship?

For clarity, ‘songs’ below means hymns and songs; ‘words’ means lyrics and song words; ‘tune’ means tune or melody; ‘arrangement’ indicates a musical composition to accompany the tune and ‘score’ indicates the musical representation of either the tune, arrangement or both.

There is a detailed page of guidance relating to copyright and Singing the Faith here.

The words and tune to a song often have different copyright terms unless they were all written by the same person and released at the same time. The arrangement may be by the same person who wrote the tune, or be by someone else completely and have a further copyright. In addition, there are rights in the performance of the song – not only held by the copyright holders of the song, but also by the performers. This means that there may be lots of copyright holders and some aspects may still be in copyright even when others have become public domain, so you need to be aware of this and check all of the different potential copyright holders if you are including music.

If you have a CCLI or ONE LICENSE (formerly Calamus) then there are lots of songs that you can use under the terms of these agreements and you can see more about this below in the Churches with CCLI and ONE LICENSE section, below.

Firstly, we’ll look at the use of words and musical score in standalone worship resources. Then we will look at streaming.

Words only in worship resources

If the person who wrote the words died over 70 years ago, then it is likely that those words are now in the public domain. If the song words are public domain, then you can use them without a licence or a permission. You can search online to check whether the words to hymns and worship songs are public domain on sites such as Hymnary.org or Singing the Faith Plus that confirm who owns the copyright. 

It can be harder to check the copyright for secular song words online and, just because they appear on websites, this does not mean they are public domain so you need to check when the writer died, or if they are still living.
If in doubt, don’t use it.

Please note that most of the songs in Singing the Faith are not the intellectual property of The Methodist Church in Britain and must be checked to see if they list a copyright holder for the words (‘Words © …’). If they do, then permission may need to be requested if they are not covered by other licences you hold (see the notes for Words in Resources - Churches with CCLI and ONE LICENSE, below). Those song words in Singing the Faith that do not list a copyright holder are public domain (for example, all words by Charles Wesley).

Alternatively, you could provide just a link to an original version online that shows it is licensed and used with permission – for example on Singing the Faith Plus – which your worshippers can then visit if they choose. All hymns published on Singing the Faith Plus are published on the understanding that they can be used freely by visitors to the site, with any copyright information included as appropriate. 

Words in resources – churches with CCLI and ONE LICENSE

If your church has a CCLI Licence or ONE LICENSE then you may use the words of songs given in their authorised lists in worship resources and song sheets, which can then be printed or electronically reproduced and shared, including as .pdf files, by email or through a file-sharing app. The songs must be fully credited following the licence guidelines and the use must be reported as directed by the licence terms.

For these licences to work, the materials used must be exactly as the original and you should check the terms, following all of the directions for use, crediting and reporting. Any materials produced by you under these licenses should be intended for your own congregations; if you are a smaller, affiliate of a larger, mother church, you must check whether you need your own licences, as the mother church’s licence may not cover you. If you are adapting or editing materials, you must get specific permission from the copyright holder, as the licences do not cover this.

CCLI

Under the Church Copyright Licence (CCL), the words can be retyped for use in your document. For more information, see: global.ccli.com/wp-content/uploads/fact-file-reproducing.pdf

If the song words are listed with CCLI, the hymn should be included under regular reporting requirements. To check, refer to the CCL and MRL Authorised Catalogue Lists available online at: churches.uk.ccli.com/resources/authorised

Under the Music Reproduction Licence (MRL), which is an add-on supplement to the CCL, you can use the downloadable version of the words from the CCLI SongSelect website, if there is one, or you can scan and use the words as typeset in a publication of which your church owns at least one purchased copy. If the typesetting is over 25 years old then it does not have to be on the approved list (MRL Licence clause 2.1.1.2.) to be covered by this licence. For more information, see global.ccli.com/wp-content/uploads/fact-file-photocopying.pdf.

To check for authorised songs, go to uk.search.ccli.com

ONE LICENSE

If your worship resources containing song words are made available online, you need to monitor the number of downloads and if the users exceed your average church attendance you should arrange a licence adjustment with ONE LICENSE accordingly.

If the Member Publisher (i.e. a publishing house) has provided a download of the words on the ONE LICENSE site, you can use that version, or you can scan and use the congregational version as typeset in a publication, if your church owns at least one purchased copy. The licence also covers you to retype the words for use in your document. For more information see onelicense.net/faqs

To check for authorised songs, go to onelicense.net/search  

Musical score in worship resources

If you are only including the words of songs in your document, then you can direct the worshippers to use any tune you or they wish – or leave them to choose. It is only when you include the tune in some form (e.g. score, audio, video) that licences or permissions are needed for the music. This means that it may be best not to include music at all, but guidance is included below to help further.

Musical scores, even for public domain tunes and arrangement, are not automatically free to share. Most worshippers do not need a score, or even a tune, to follow so it may not be worth including these in general worship resource documents.

If the person who wrote the tune died over 70 years ago, then it is likely that it is now in the public domain. The same goes for the arrangement, if the person who wrote that died over 70 years ago. You can search online to check whether the tune or arrangement are public domain on sites such as Hymnary.org or Singing the Faith Plus that confirm who owns the copyright.

If the tune or arrangement are public domain, then you can score them without a licence or a permission but only if you write this out yourself. It should be noted that, as copyright is held in typesetting for 25 years, any recent typeset scoring of public domain tunes and arrangements may still be in copyright by the publisher and need a licence or permission.

Please note that most of the songs in Singing the Faith would need to be checked in the music edition, to see if they list copyright holders for the music. If they do, then permission may need to be requested, if they are not covered by other licences you hold (see the notes on Musical Score in Resources – Churches with CCLI and ONE LICENSE, below). Those songs in Singing the Faith music edition that do not list a music copyright holder are public domain for the tune and four-part harmony arrangement, but the organ edition should be checked for details of the accompaniment arrangement, which may still be in copyright. 

If in any doubt about rights, you could provide just a link to an original version online that shows it is licensed and used with permission – for example on Singing the Faith Plus – which your worshippers can then visit if they choose.

]For more modern worship songs, if an artist has their own website, or if they have a verified YouTube channel or Facebook page, they might have an official audio or video stream that you could link to. A verified streaming channel will have a tick in a circle, or a musical note, next to their username, where the platform has checked they are genuine. 

Do not try to insert audio clips directly into your documents. Audio clips from third-parties may have complicated copyrights that are not covered by licenses or concessions. 

Musical scores in resources – churches with CCLI and ONE LICENSE

If your church has a CCLI Licence or ONE LICENSE (formerly Calamus) then you may use the score of songs given in their authorised lists, in ‘worship aids’ and ‘song sheets’, which can then be printed or electronically reproduced and shared, including as .pdf files, by email or through a file-sharing app. The songs must be fully credited under the guidelines provided and the use must be reported as directed in the licence terms. If you are adapting or editing materials, you must get specific permission from the copyright holder, as the licences do not cover this.

CCLI

Under the Church Copyright Licence (CCL), the score can be retyped in a music notation program, or written out by hand, for use in your document. For more information, see global.ccli.com/wp-content/uploads/fact-file-reproducing.pdf

If a composer is listed with CCLI, the hymn should be included under regular reporting requirements. To check, refer to the CCL and MRL Authorised Catalogue Lists available online at: churches.uk.ccli.com/resources/authorised

Under the Music Reproduction Licence (MRL), which is an add-on supplement to the CCL, you can use the downloadable version from CCLI SongSelect, if there is one, or you can scan and use the score as typeset in a publication of which your church owns at least one purchased copy. If the typesetting is over 25 years old then it does not have to be on the approved list (MRL Licence clause 2.1.1.2.) to be covered by this licence. For more information, see global.ccli.com/wp-content/uploads/fact-file-photocopying.pdf

 To check for authorised songs, go to uk.search.ccli.com

ONE LICENSE

The main Annual Reprint License covers the use of score intended for congregational singing only (which ONE LICENSE also refers to as a music or reprint box), as long as the number of worshippers is in line with your average weekly church attendance. If your worship resources are made available online, you need to monitor the number of downloads and if the users exceed this you should arrange a licence adjustment with ONE LICENSE accordingly.

If the Member Publisher (i.e. publishing house) has provided a download of the congregational score on the ONE LICENSE site, you can use that version, or you can scan and use the congregational version as typeset in a publication of which your church owns at least one purchased copy. The licence also covers you to retype this in a music notation program, or write it out by hand for use in your document. For more information see onelicense.net/faqs  What can I reproduce? What is excluded

To check for authorised songs, go to onelicense.net/search

Online worship

If you have a CCLI or ONE LICENSE then there are lots of songs that you can use in online worship and you can see more about this below in the Online Worship - Churches with CCLI, ONE LICENSE and LOML section below. 

Please note that most of the songs in Singing the Faith would need to be checked to see if they list copyright holders for the words and for the music. If they do, then permission may need to be requested if they are not covered by other licences you hold (see the notes on CCLI and ONE LICENSE, below). 

As an example, StF 503 Love Divine:
The main tune, Blaenwern, is public domain as the composer, William Penfro Rowlands, died in 1937. However, the arrangement given in StF and the descant provided for v3 are in copyright as they are by a more recent, living composer, Paul Leddington Wright.

You can search online or use Hymnary.org or Singing the Faith Plus to see who owns the copyright of many sacred songs. 

If the words, tune, arrangement and performance rights are all definitely public domain then you can perform them live in your online worship, without licences or permissions. 

If in any doubt about rights, you could provide just a link to an original version online that shows it is licensed and used with permission – for example on Singing the Faith Plus – which your worshippers can then visit if they choose.

For more modern worship songs, if an artist has their own website, or if they have a verified YouTube channel or Facebook page, they might have an official audio or video stream that you could link to. A verified page have a tick in a circle, or a musical note, next to their username, where the platform has checked they are genuine. 

Online worship – churches with CCLI, ONE LICENSE and LOML

Both CCLI and ONE LICENSE offer streaming licences, which are add-ons to their main licences. These licences include the right to perform live music in online worship and also show words on screen, to enable worshippers to sing along. If your church has these licences, you may use songs given in their authorised lists in your online worship. The songs must be fully credited under the guidelines provided and the use must be reported as directed in the licence terms. 

CCLI and ONE LICENSE do not cover any music that is not on their approved lists, even if performed by your music team. If you want to use any other music, then you should refer to the commercial and secular music section. If you are adapting or editing materials, you must get specific permission from the copyright holder, as the licences do not cover this. 

There are also some additional clauses to note with these streaming licences: the online worship must be hosted by a church or organisation that has a current CCLI licence or ONE LICENSE and also has a current CCLI Streaming add-on or ONE LICENSE Podcast/Streaming licence add-on. 

  • These licences are only sufficient if the online worship is being hosted with Facebook or YouTube, as those platforms already have their own licences that cover the performance rights.
    Note: YouTube and Facebook have algorithms searching for copyrighted material and you may need to prove you have the correct CCLI or ONE LICENSE licences or they will suspend or remove your content.
  • If the online worship is being hosted on any other online platform, including your own website or via conference tools like Zoom, then a PRS for Music Limited Online Music Licence (LOML) must be held. This is mandatory even if you are with CCLI or ONE LICENSE and have their normal licences and the streaming add-ons.

The relevant licences must be in place for the duration the video is online, so if the streaming add-on, the LOML or any of the other base licences are not kept current by the hosting church, then any affected online worship recordings must be taken down, or penalties may be incurred.

 Although both CCLI and ONE LICENSE confirm that words may be shown on screen during online worship under their streaming licence add-ons, neither allow scores to be included and that would require permission. It is unlikely that including score in live streams would benefit general worshippers and so we do not recommend musical score of any type is included in any online worship.

Under certain circumstances, scores may be included in a resource document to accompany the online worship, please see the Musical score in worship resources section for more information.

To check for CCLI authorised songs, go to uk.search.ccli.com

To check for ONE LICENSE authorised songs, go to onelicense.net/search and for more information on reporting use, you might find the following article useful: news.onelicense.net/2020/10/19/reporting-instrumental-choral-titles-under-your-podcast-streaming-license/ 

Can I use CDs and audio files, or secular music, in worship resources or online worship?

Generally, the main licences and concessions to which a church may have access tend to only apply to sacred music for use in a service in a church itself. Even secular tunes that are used in services normally may not be covered.

Any music recorded by anyone else, including commercial recordings played from a CD, tape, LP, mp3, online or other copy, used in your online worship would need permission from all of the copyright holders for the words, the music and also all of the performance rights, including permission from the performer. It is therefore much better to only include a link to a third-party recording, rather than inserting or playing it in your online worship. 

If an artist has their own website, or if they have a verified YouTube channel or Facebook page, they might have an official audio or video stream that you could link to. A verified streaming channel will have a tick in a circle, or a musical note, next to their username, where the platform has checked they are genuine.

Secular song words

If the person who wrote the words died over 70 years ago, then it is likely that those words are now in the public domain. If the song words are public domain, then you can use them without a licence or a permission. It can be difficult to check the copyright for secular song words online and, even if they appear on websites, this does not mean they are public domain. You need to check when the writer died, or if they are still living. Showing the words on screen, reading them aloud in a stream or recording, including them online, or as text in a worship resource would all need permission, unless you can be certain that they are public domain.
If in doubt, don’t use it.

Secular musical scores

Musical scores, even for public domain tunes and arrangement, are not automatically free to share. Most worshippers do not need a score, or even a tune to follow and, as most secular music is not covered by the available licences or concessions, avoid using secular music scores entirely, unless you have specific permission.

Can I use pre-recorded music in online worship?

If you have members of your music team, choir or congregation creating music that will then be edited into online worship, separate performance and other permissions could be needed, as they are not performing live in a ‘real’ service, so a normal church licence may not cover them. 

Under CCLI, you would need permission for use of these recordings in your online worship, from all of the copyright holders for the words, the music and for any performance rights, but you can instead look at using their Streaming Plus licence to give access to their library of master recordings and backing tracks to enhance your worship, both in church and online. For more detail, see uk.ccli.com/streaming/

However, ONE LICENSE advise that if your music team create a pre-recorded version, you will be covered as long as this is self-made and intended solely for your online worship. Their main Annual Reprint License covers the use of score intended for congregational singing only, so you should only use this version. If the Member Publisher has provided a download of this on the ONE LICENSE site, you can use that version, or you can scan and use the congregational version as typeset in a publication of which your church owns at least one purchased copy. The licence also covers you to retype this in a music notation program, or write it out by hand for use in your document.

For more information see onelicense.net/faqs What can I reproduce? What is excluded?  and also: news.onelicense.net/2020/05/22/best-practices-for-posting-your-services-to-social-media.

If the words, tune, arrangement and performance rights are all definitely public domain then your music team can make recordings of these or perform them live in your online worship, without licences or permissions. You can find out more information on determining public domain status above under Can I use hymns and songs (lyrics, scores, audio or video) in worship resources or in online worship? 

You can also search Hymnary or Singing the Faith Plus to see who owns the copyright of sacred songs. 

If you do not have a music team that can help with providing recorded music, nor a CCLI Streaming Plus licence or ONE LICENSE (or if you cannot get access to the music that you want through these), you might consider using the library of recordings available under the church streaming license from MultiTracks: see multitracks.com/products/churchstreaminglicense/. You can create a setlist on MultiTracks.com and they will handle all of the licensing and reporting for you.

Any other music recorded by anyone else, including commercial recordings played from a CD, tape, LP, mp3, online or other copy, used in your online worship would need permission from all of the copyright holders for the words, the music and also all of the performance rights, including permission from the performer. It is therefore much better to only include a link to a third-party recording, rather than inserting or playing it in your online worship.

The best way to include pre-recorded commercial music is to find an official version online that shows it is licensed and used with permission and include a link to it instead, for your worshippers to visit if they choose to. If an artist has their own website, or if they have a verified YouTube channel or Facebook page, they might have an official audio or video stream that you could link to. A verified streaming channel will have a tick in a circle, or a musical note, next to their username, where the platform has checked they are genuine.

Can I use poetry, prose and other text in worship resources and online worship?

The CLA Church Licence from CCLI allows copying or digital reproduction from the listed non-music publications, such as liturgy, for distribution under certain circumstances, including email. Retyping is not allowed and would require permission.
To see if a publication is covered, use the Permissions Checker here: cla.co.uk

The licences from ONE LICENSE are specifically only for authorised music, so do not cover any other types of publications.

Generally, the main church licences and concessions tend to only apply to sacred publications being used in a church setting. Even secular materials that may be used in services normally may not be covered in online worship and electronic resources, as they are not being used in services in a church setting. There are some other guidelines that might apply, but they can be very subjective and have a level of risk, so we do not recommend using any such materials.
However, there are some materials that you can use without permissions or licenses.

For the classics, you could consider using a version that was published when the poet or author was alive, so long as they died over 70 years ago and the copyrights were not renewed. You can check the WATCH database for this and also for the copyright status and copyright holder contact details for more modern writers. As with song words, just because these texts appear on websites, this does not mean they are public domain; you need to check when the writer died, or if they are still living as well as when the material was first published.

For example, under these terms, the original versions of poems by poets such as Wordsworth, Keats, Yeats, Rossetti, Blake and Burns are public domain; as are original texts by Austen, Dickens, Eliot and Twain; so these can be used. For original versions, you could look at Project Gutenberg. Classic works may have been modernised and any modernisation will likely be in copyright, this goes especially for Shakespeare, so if using any of his works, use a confirmed public domain version, such as The Complete Works at MIT.

Everything else will need permission.

Alternatively, if you can find an original version online that shows it is licensed and used with permission, then you could include a link to it instead, for your worshippers to visit if they choose to.

Can I use images in worship resources or online worship?

‘Images’ include works of art, photographs, drawings, sketches, figures, graphs or any other pictures or graphic representations, as well as scans or photos of these.

Generally, the main church licences and concessions tend to only apply to sacred publications being used in a church setting. Even secular images that may be used in services normally may not be covered as they are not being used in services in a church setting. Use of images in isolation is not generally covered by CCLI or ONE LICENSE licences, even under their add-on licences.

Photographs which are older, or show classic works of art, can still have complicated copyrights: rights can be held by the owner of the original, whoever made the electronic image of it and also any agents who are licensing that version for use. Permission would be needed from every one of these copyright holders and so images cannot be assumed to be public domain based on their age, or the death of the photographer.

It is worth noting that low-resolution images from the Methodist Modern Art Collection can be downloaded free of charge from the Methodist Church website for use in church work. This use should be acknowledged with the following specified text:

[Artist/title] from the Methodist Modern Art Collection © TMCP, used with permission.
www.methodist.org.uk/artcollection
[Where used outside Great Britain, the following text should be added: The Methodist Church in Britain].

It is not advisable to create your own image based on another image or artwork, as the original copyright holders could hold some adaptation rights in your new work, so you would still need their permission. You would also need permission from the site owner (given in a signed property release or consent form) for any photos that were taken without specific prior permission before crossing a paywall or other private barrier – for example at a visitor attraction – because your photo might include material that is someone else’s intellectual property, including signage, display or even architecture.

For any photos of people, even your own congregation, you would need their permission (given through a signed model release or consent form), no matter who took them. You can find some guidance regarding consent forms and photography at events here. There are some specific release forms for minors here, but you would also need releases for any adults.

If you are creating documents or streaming services as part of the work of your church, be aware that some copyright holders may class that as commercial use and so any sites making images freely available for non-commercial use are more likely to challenge churches using their images without permission.

There are some images that you can use without permissions or licences and you could consider using the following:

  • Your own image that meets the guidelines above.
  • An image created by someone within the congregation that meets the guidelines above and for which they have given you permission to use in the document.
  • Public domain images – if they really are! Don’t just take the internet’s word for this, you need to be certain that anyone who may hold rights has chosen to waive them.
    Unfortunately, on many websites, images are used without permission and are not credited, so they look ‘safe’ but are not – or they may be safe under US law but are not under UK law, which is an issue with images on Wikipedia, for example. Make sure to research images on reputable sites that always credit them fully.
  • Images released under a Creative Commons licence. These images are free to use with no need for additional permission, so long as they are fully credited. However, you need to be cautious as some images may appear to be free or part of the creative commons, when they are not.

Reputable Creative Commons websites

You may want to consider using images that are clearly marked up as Creative Commons or Public Domain from one of these ‘safe’ sites:

University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web  
Brooklyn Museum   
Geograph Britain and Ireland
McCord Museum   
Metropolitan Museum of Art   
Museums Victoria  
Rijksmuseum  
World Register of Marine Species 

Memes

Memes are prolific on social media but, like other images, they can have complicated rights. Often, memes are created by one person but based on an image by another and may then feature text from a further source; for example: the image might be a film still or a famous photograph and the words may be from a song. .gif files (short, moving images) are similar to memes in terms of rights, but use a moving image.

There are some great memes and gifs, but they’re a copyright nightmare. Their use on social media is generally non-commercial, shared between users on their personal profiles. If you are creating resources or streaming services as part of the work of your church, copyright holders may class that as commercial use and could potentially challenge the use.

Due to this, memes and gifs are unfortunately not worth the potential risk and we do not recommend including them.

Can I use videos in worship resources or online worship?

Video rights can be complicated, as rights are held in the visuals, the sound and the combination of the two (sometimes referred to as sync); each part can have several copyright holders. Third-party videos are not covered by any of the available CCLI or ONE LICENSE licences, or streaming add-ons.

It is best to link to any video, rather than trying to insert any third-party videos in your documents or online worship and be sure to find an official version to link to. If an artist has their own website, or if they have a verified YouTube channel or Facebook page, they might have an official audio or video stream that you could link to. A verified streaming channel will have a tick in a circle, or a musical note, next to their username, where the platform has checked they are genuine.

Can I use commercial brands and adverts in worship resources or online worship?

Showing a company’s logo or other intellectual property needs permission, which may be complicated and expensive.

Alluding to a commercial brand, advert or product might be acceptable, if it is not endorsement, criticism or otherwise controversial; a general reference or recommendation in passing, without use of any third-party material, would be fine, or you could provide a link to the company’s own original and genuine source if there is one online, so worshippers can access it if they want more information.

Can I produce worship resource documents for online worship?

The main guidelines are those above for the use of liturgy, scripture and song words in worship resources, so you must be careful that the materials in the documents are covered by any licences you hold, or concessions you can apply.

If your licences cover material in the online worship itself, but not in a supporting worship resource, you should just refer the worshippers to follow the online worship itself for that part. Otherwise, you should get permission to use copyright materials in any resource designed to accompany your online worship.

More commonly, especially for material such as scripture or modern worship songs, you will find that your licences cover material in documents, but not in the online worship itself. In those instances, you may perhaps suggest the worshippers pause the online worship and follow the document or link provided for that part, or leave space for them to do this. Otherwise, to use the material in the online worship, you would need to get permission.

Further resources

Back to Guidance for churches

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