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With a little bit of preparation and the correct licence cover, you can legally video or audio record your church services and make copies available for those unable to attend, or make them available online to stream or download.

Since church services usually include a range of musical and literary works, before you record your services you should obtain permission from the copyright owner(s) of any creative work you include. Usually this is in the form of one or more copyright licences. If you have written an original work, such as a song or poem, and you have not signed the rights to a third-party, you may record your own work without seeking any further permission.

You should also obtain permission from musicians, singers, readers, preachers etc. before recording their ‘performance’. You will also need their permission if you intend to make copies for sale or free distribution. Remember, a performer’s copyright in a work lasts for 70 years.


Recording live music

Copyright exists in both the music and the words of hymns and worship songs. If a recording of a service is made you’ll be reproducing both the words and music, for which copyright permission must be obtained in advance. These rights are handled, on behalf of copyright owners, by the Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society (MCPS) which is part of PRS for Music. The Church Copyright Licence (CCL) from CCLI includes certain MCPS rights which means churches that hold a CCL in the UK can record services, including any live music, as a keepsake or for those unable to attend.

To record worship services, concerts or weddings where you intend to make copies for distribution (regardless of whether or not you charge for them) you will probably require a Limited Manufacture Licence from PRS for Music. Visit prsformusic.com/LM for details.

 

Music recordings

Music recordings are currently protected by copyright for 70 years. PRS for Music and PPL who administer the rights in a music recording currently waive the requirement for a licence for music played during Acts of Worship (e.g. regular worship services). However, if you record a service during which music is played from a recording such as a CD, DVD, MP3, etc., then you would in effect be dubbing from the original source for which separate copyright permission may need to be obtained in advance.

CCLI’s Church Copyright Licence (CCL) permits recordings of worship services as a keepsake or for those unable to attend, but you cannot include any commercial music recordings played during the service.  If you intend to make copies for other purposes, perhaps to sell to members of the congregation, a Limited Manufacture Licence from PRS for Music may be required. Visit prsformusic.com/LM for details.

 

Podcasting or Streaming your services

The web-streaming of music protected by copyright is administered by PRS for Music/MCPS* via their Limited Online Music Licence (LOML). This licence allows a number of small scale online services including limited downloads/on-demand streaming, web-casting (broadcasting your services over the internet) and music podcasting.

The content of a podcast is protected in the same way as any other copyrighted work made available on the internet. A podcast which includes no third-party copyright material (i.e. no copyright worship songs, liturgy, poems or sound recordings) would require no additional licence. However, as always, permission must be sought from all musicians, readers, prayers and preachers before you record, broadcast or distribute their performance.

The cost of the LOML varies depending on a number of different factors such as the number of streams and downloads per year. For more details of the LOML, visit prsformusic.com/LOML.