Every piece of original work, whether written, composed, photographed or filmed, is protected by copyright during the creator's lifetime and generally for 70 years after the end of the year in which they died.
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 guidance for helping you comply with copyright law.
The law on copyright has significant implications for local churches, a number of which have been pursued by copyright holders for alleged copyright infringement with the potential for significant fines and legal costs.
To stay within the law, all local churches need copyright approval to:
- Photocopy hymns
- Show hymns on an overhead projector
- Photocopy text from books
- Record music, such as a church concert (although see the 'sufficient acknowledgement' exception below)
- Use others' images or text on a church website (except where provided by volunteers for the purpose of publication)
- Publish others' work in a church magazine (where volunteers submit work (articles, photographs etc) for publication, it is best practice to acknowledge receipt of submissions expressly stating that the Church Council / Circuit Meeting treats the submission as permission to publish without the need to obtain specific permission, or alternatively, permission is deemed to have been given by the act of submitting the work for publication).
Regarding the final point above, a template form of words to use upon receipt of a written submission is:
'Thank you for submitting your [article, photograph etc] for publication in ........ Church magazine. For the avoidance of doubt, .......... Church Council shall treat the act of submitting this [article, photograph etc] as providing your full permission for the publication of this [article, photograph etc] in ....... Church magazine. If this interpretation is incorrect, you must clarify this as soon as is reasonably possible.'
You must ensure that you have permission to use images anywhere online, including your website and all social media accounts, as well as in print. Just because an image, or any other resource, is available online does not mean it may be used. Indeed, it is likely that the image or resource in question will be subject to copyright and you will not have the right to use it without the consent of the copyright holder.
Various websites grant licenses to use an image in exchange for a fee. Getty Images is a supplier of premium images, often to media and marketing companies; many of their images will prove too expensive for your church. Fortunately Getty also offer a free programme to use a large set of their photography: Getty Images embed. This programme allows you to embed photos on your site for free.
The website 123rf.com also provides useful stock photography, some of which are free, as well as stock audio and video.
Another option is Creative Commons where copyright holders grant permission to use their work, although do check whether any limitations apply. For example, the copyright holder may stipulate that their work cannot be used for commercial purposes, or that it may not be altered or that a short statement should appear identifying them as the creator. Incorrect use could result in copyright infringement, so be clear about the scope of the permission that has been granted. You must provide suitable attribution to the copyright holder when using work under a Creative Commons licence. Failure to do so may result in copyright infringement.
Other useful websites to consider include PhotoPin and Flickr. There are other similar websites and you should compare what is available to ensure that your requirements are met without incurring unnecessary expense.
Material produced by the Methodist Church in Britain
All material contained on the Methodist Church in Britain website (www.methodist.org.uk) is covered by UK and International Copyright laws. Copyright to all material produced by the Methodist Church in Britain is held by the Trustees for Methodist Church Purposes (TMCP). All requests for permission to use any material on the Methodist Church in Britain website, or produced by the Methodist Church in Britain, should be made to the web editor at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Some text on the Methodist Church in Britain website (for example 'Special Sundays' material and 'A Word in Time' Bible studies) can be used for non-commercial purposes by local churches without need for copyright permission. In these cases this is stated alongside the text.
Where copyright for text on the Methodist Church in Britain website belongs to a third party, this will be stated alongside the text. Permission to use the material should then be requested directly from the third party.
Images (apart from Methodist Church logos) on this website must not be used without prior permission. Contact the web editor by email (see above) with any requests.
Singing the Faith
A copyright violation does not occur simply for singing or playing from the printed hymn book during worship services as copyright fees are included in the purchase price of each book. However, where you wish to project or reproduce words or music, further permission is required from the copyright holder.
Do not copy songs or hymns by any means, including posting them on your website, unless you have the permission or authority from the copyright holder or are covered by a copyright licence. Failure to obtain the relevant permission or licence could put your local church at risk.
If your local church is intending to reproduce material contained in Singing the Faith then it is advisable to first obtain a licence. However, if you do not intend to reproduce any copyrighted work then there is no need to have a licence.
Licences: To overcome the complexities involved in getting official approval every time you use a copyrighted resource in church, Christian Copyright Licensing International (CCLI) and the Calamus UK Copyright Scheme offer a set of licences. These licences require an annual fee which is tailored to the size of the congregation, and are designed to cover the various uses of material in different circumstances. The licence you need depends on which hymns you wish to reproduce and how you intend to reproduce them e.g. projection or photocopy.
Calamus provides access to a large proportion of the repertoire used particularly in Catholic liturgy and allows reproduction of the words and melody line of the pieces covered under the scheme.
Oral use and sound recordings of copyright material
The reading or recitation in public by one person of a reasonable extract from a published literary or dramatic work does not infringe copyright provided it is accompanied by a ‘sufficient acknowledgement’ (section 59(1), CDPA). The term sufficient acknowledgement, as explained in section 178, CDPA, means an acknowledgement identifying the copyright work, by its title or other description, and the author, unless the work is:
- A published work which was published anonymously; or
- An unpublished work in respect of which it is not possible to ascertain the identity of the author by reasonable inquiry.
The making of sound recordings or communication to the public of such readings or recitations is also permitted provided that the recording or communication consists mainly of other material (that is, material which can be used without reliance on the public reading or recitation exception) (section 59(2), CDPA).
However, where the intention is to photocopy, or reproduce copyright material in hard copy, then a license will be required.
Further information on copyright is available from the following sites: