What you Should Know Before you Live Stream

last updated 11/30/2020

The Covid-19 pandemic has defined and challenged the world in many ways. While much of our workforce has moved their offices into their homes, the church has had to learn new ways of ministering to its people. When the body of Christ cannot be together in person, many churches have turned to live streaming as a virtual substitute.

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.

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

  • live streams or retransmits 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:

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