Cascadia District Online Church Life Resources
Copyright Law in the Age of Live Streaming: 8 Things You Need to Know
An Interview with Diane Sanchez-Bushong
April 8, 2021
In late March, I sat down (read: Zoomed) with Diana Sanchez-Bushong, the Director of Music Ministries on the UM General Board of Discipleship to talk about copyright laws and infringement, especially in the age of live-streaming. All of Diana’s responses are in italics.
- In the age of live-streaming, what do churches need to think about differently or extend their knowledge of copyright to include?
Even before the pandemic, CCLI and OneLicense.net allowed churches to put words to their hymns on a screen and in the bulletin. Not only do these licenses help us to abide by copyright laws, they also help us to pay the musicians and artists who created these works. In the age of live-streaming, you need an additional streaming license for posting to Facebook, Youtube, or the like.
Link to CCLI’s Streaming license by clicking here.
- In live-streaming, many churches face problems with Facebook and Youtube flagging their services for copywritten material, even with CCLI licenses listed. Will this get better in the future?
It’s hard to say. These are bots or algorithms that are flagging these posts, so it will likely continue to happen. Continue to list your licenses, record which songs are used from the public domain, and state “used by permission” when accurate in your comments and captions to attempt to minimize this experience.
- What’s the most common occurrence of copyright infringement you see churches accidentally participate in?
Using pre-recorded Youtube videos in your service or live-stream. While you can’t make that a part of your worship video, you can share the link in your bulletin or newsletter for people to check out at home! There is something called a sync license that would make that possible. Learn more about sync licensing by clicking here.
- What are the most likely consequences to copyright infringement?
Most likely you won’t get sued, but lawsuits can and do still happen. If you are held accountable, it’s more likely that the claim is taken to your district or your conference than your local church. Obviously, this can create a really complicated situation. It’s important to remember that who this most affects are the artists and musicians who create the content. Churches are failing to fairly pay the creators when they do not abide by copyright laws.
- If you give credit to the artist, musician, or writer, have you done your due?
No, because this is their livelihood. This is what allows artists to create. Giving credit and not paying the proper license or person is like saying thank you to a pastor for giving the sermon but not paying them for the work. Again, this is about fair pay.
- As Christians, how do you recommend we think about copyright infringement?
This is a justice issue. You don’t want to keep people from being able to make a living wage. Pay people their wages. This is what these licenses or laws are about. This is a chance to participate in a lifegiving act!
- Fill in the blank, when in doubt, _____.
Do your research. Dig in deeper and ask around. If you feel you aren’t properly covering the bases for copyright, it’s likely your gut is correct.
- Any final pieces of advice or little known facts or tips you have to share?
Little known fact: If you are wanting to use a particular piece of content, often you can actually easily find who owns the copyright with a quick Google search! It’s not that hard to contact the folks who own the rights, in many cases. In the age of the internet, finding their email and just asking is a fairly accessible option! I’ve found most creators want you to use their work, and when they ask for money, it’s not usually very much and allows you to support their work. Plus, you get to use the phrase “used with permission,” which is so satisfying!
Another tip is to go to www.hymnary.org to find who owns the rights to what hymns. It’s a great resource.
If you have suggestions or questions, please contact Hope Montgomery, our Online Ministry Consultant through May of this year by email here.
Hope Montgomery is the Cascadia District Online Consultant for local churches. She is available to work with local churches at no cost to you through the end of May 2021.
To email her, click here.
Live Streaming: Three Options Related to Expertise Level and Budget
In her March 2021 article, Hope laid out options for live streaming set-ups for each of three budget and expertise levels, including number of team members needed.
Live Streaming on a Budget: Options under $1,000
In her February 2021 article, Hope details information for those just getting started in live streaming with limited expertise and a limited budget for additional equipment
Local church learning sessions: Technology for worship, small groups and giving is a page on the UM Communications website with links to multiple articles about a variety of online church life functions.
- See this section of the Greater NW Area Covid Resource Page, under "Innovate in Worship" at
- There are also links there to more resources on copyright and licensing issues
- Find the virtual Pulpit Supply Resource with pre-recorded sermons for any Sunday available free to all GNW Area churches at https://regionalmediacenter.org/product-category/sermons/
- The Regional Media Center is also the host of other seasonal pre-recorded digital worship elements (including the whole service prepared for any Sunday in Eastertide). All our churches have a free membership through January 22nd. Check out the digital resources section at https://regionalmediacenter.org/
- Jim and Jean Strathdee have a large collection of sing-along music videos they are providing free for local church use:
- Check out the Cascadia District Vimeo channel for sermons DS Wendy is pre-recording and making available for local church use: https://vimeo.com/cascadiadistrictumc
How to Make Virtual Worship and other Online Church Life Events Accessible to All. This .pdf from the DisAbility Ministries Office of The UMC gives suggestions on how to make online church life accessible to persons with physical disabilities, hearing loss and blindness, as well as addressing the challenges faced by older adults and those with mental health issues. There are other resources for supporting those with disabilities during the pandemic at umcdmc.org/2020/03/27/coronavirus-resources-for-churches/