Know Before You Livestream

Not sure if you need a copyright license before you stream your service? Here's some guidelines to help know what to ask.

Your music director or minister of music is probably familiar with a copyright license and what it covers for using music in a worship service. Generally speaking, a copyright license grants the use of a particular work (e.g., a song, a hymn, lyrics, a religious ritual) and compensates the owner for their work. However, one important exception churches should know about is the Religious Service Exemption (“RSE”).

You need a copyright license if your church does any of the following:

  • uses technology to create, distribute, or display copyrighted works
  • stores songs, lyrics, a service sheet, or other copyrighted material for visual projection
  • prints songs, hymns, or lyrics in bulletins or other formats so that congregations can follow along and sing
  • arranges your own vocal and instrumental arrangements when a published version isn’t available
  • displays copies of copyrighted material for the congregation to sing along with
  • translates lyrics to another language when a published version isn’t available

If your church is new to live streaming, there are other requirements that a copyright license does not cover -- you’ll need a streaming license as well. A streaming license allows you to digitally transmit songs on your church website, a hosted website, or a streaming service.

Tip: Did you know that Facebook and YouTube have algorithms and AI technology that can detect recorded music by an artist? Breaking copyright laws may prompt social media companies to shut down your stream or your account temporarily or permanently.

You need a streaming license if your church does any of the following:

  • live streams or re-transmits songs in audio and/or video form
  • distributes audio or video files of songs to personal computers, portable media players or other similar devices
  • uploads videos to YouTube, Vimeo, other such platforms, provided that copyright owners can monetize and place ads on videos of their own copyrighted works

To learn more about the licenses you’ll need to live stream your next service, below are a few companies that help churches obtain the appropriate licensing:

Note: The information provided is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. See your Software Services Agreement for more information.

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