Live streaming and licences

In Advice, helpful, Information, Live streaming
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In recent months I have seen a number of Facebook posts about UK churches wanting to stream their services online. From a technical aspect many churches have some idea of what they need to buy and setup. The issues come through when looking at licensing.

As part of our work at CTUK we want to make sure that churches and techs are getting the right info and where needed abiding by laws. With this in mind we reached out to the team at CCLI to get some clear clarification on what can and cannot be done, and also what licenses are required.

As you will read below there is still some grey areas and at the current time CCLI do not offer a license to cover all aspects of streaming. From what I pick up below, if there were a massive increase in churches wanting to stream, CCLI might then be able to investigate offering a ‘one stop’ license.

The core issue identified below is to do with ‘synchronisation rights’, in more laymen’s terms putting the audio and video together. As the information points out publishers have the right to decide what images are shown alongside their music.

Before reading the below I would like to state that the information below has ben provided by CCLI. However you choose to interrupt it is up to you and CTUK cannot be held liable for any outcomes.

Finally I would like to say thank you to David at CCLI for the below information. Should any of the below not make sense or you require more clarification, please contact CCLI directly. Of course if there are any changes to the below we will publish updates on this post.


 CCLI’s response and information

1 – The rights required to audio-stream music are included in the LOML available from PRS for Music.

2 – To stream any images alongside audio brings in the Synchronisation right.  Rights holders and publishers have the right to decide what images are shown whilst their music is played or performed.  This most obviously applies in advertising, television and film.

3 – If you read the information PRS for Music provides with their LOML you’ll see that they stipulate clearly that the licence does not include any Synchronisation rights.  Strictly speaking, therefore, it is an audio-streaming licence.

4  – So far as I am aware, rights holders and publishers have chosen to retain their Synchronisation rights and so none of the major licensing organisations can provide a blanket licence to cover either individuals or organisations for online synchronisation of audio and video.

5 – Some ambiguity then comes into play.  For low-level, non-commercial use, it is believed that some publishers are not concerned enough to require Synchronisation permissions to be sought, probably due to it not being cost effective.   Further, there may be some question about whether a Synchronisation right applies at all in the case of a live audio stream.  Seemingly some publishers say ‘yes’ and others ‘no’.   The difficulty for those wishing to live-stream their Sunday morning services is knowing which publishers and rights holders will require permission and which others might waive the requirement.  Technically, to be certain you are not infringing Synchronisation rights you should approach the relevant publishers direct to find out.

6 – If we were to assume that any Synchronisation right issue has been resolved, the next question concerned words on screen.   The Church Copyright Licence (CCL) permits a church to reproduce the lyrics of a hymn/song by printing them out, or projecting them on to a screen (within the building!) for congregational use.  It does not cover any kind of distribution of the words, this is a reserved right.  Consequently were the words to be included in a live stream on the internet (i.e. broadcast to the public online), this would not be covered by the CCL.  If the projection of lyrics happened to be occasionally picked up by the cameras this would be regarded as incidental, but if the lyrics are clearly being displayed for the benefit of those watching online then the CCL would not cover this.

7 – To add the lyrics onscreen over the top of a live stream so that viewers can follow/sing along would require separate permission direct from the publishers of each hymn/song (sometimes called a graphic right).  Currently, I believe those rights are retained by the rights holders.

8 – Thus: i) it is easy to get a licence for the audio-streaming of services.
ii) It is advisable for churches to ensure they have obtained permission from rights holders before synchronising images with an audio stream.
iii) Adding the words onscreen is a further right for which churches would need to obtain permission from publishers.


Anthony Lear

Anthony lives in Sheffield with his wife Fiona and daughter Naomi. He works for Hawthorn within the event projects team as a Project technician focusing on Video. Anthony is the founder of Church Tech UK, an initiative designed to support, develop and equip those that work and volunteer within a technical capacity in UK Churches.

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