Navigating Copyright for Live Streams

When dealing with online events, the copyright scene changes significantly. Some copyright protections cover both in-person and online experiences. Others are more specific to one or the other. It can seem overwhelming trying to determine what is or isn’t excusable with copyright laws and permissions. We hope this post will help eliminate some of the big questions you have about copyright.

While we are going to do our best to answer some of the big questions we see asked here, this list isn’t exhaustive. We always suggest going directly to the source to find out what you are or aren’t able to do. Local laws and even laws from country to country differ. This post is going to address some of the questions from a point of view of being from the U.S. but it may apply to your specific situation too. Please check local laws and guidelines.

Where should I get copyright permissions?

In the U.S. there are multiple options for covering your organization to be able to play songs, show videos, or display lyrics. Sometimes you can obtain copyright permissions directly from an artist’s label or distributor, but many times organizations go with umbrella copyright solutions. The big names in the church copyright world are Christian Copyright Solutions and Christian Copyright License International. There are many other copyright organizations as well, throughout the world.

Christian Copyright Solutions

This is what CCS says in their about section, “CCS is a leading authority on church music copyrights, providing simple music licensing solutions and clear educational resources. CCS is the only Christian company to partner with ASCAP, BMI and SESAC (U.S. performance rights organizations) to offer one-stop performance licenses that allow religious organizations to legally play, perform and stream more than 25 million Christian, holiday and secular songs of all genres. CCS also serves as an advocate for copyright owners.”

On their website there is a FAQ section, one of the questions is “Why a church streaming license?” “There is a religious service exemption in U.S. copyright law that allows churches to perform copyrighted music during religious services. The exemption does NOT cover the re-transmission of those services over the internet. If your church’s services include copyrighted music, a church streaming license is REQUIRED to webcast or stream those services.”

CCS primarily focuses on a secular music performance by a band and allows this to be done during or outside of a church worship service.

Christian Copyright License International

Here is what CCLI says in their about section, “CCLI encourages worship within churches, organizations, and schools in multiple countries around the world.”

For live streaming, CCLI has a streaming license. This allows churches to podcast, post videos recording of a live service for playback, or stream live. This license also requires the CCLI Copyright License.

CCLI primarily focuses on the lyrics duplications, viewing, and storage by a live band covering worship music for churches during a worship service. They also offer a rehearsal license for music playback and recording, as well as the Streaming License for legally performing music for live streams and hosted service playback.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I legally overlay lyrics during a live stream?

Yes, if you have an active CCLI Copyright License and Streaming License then it is okay to overlay lyrics on your live stream.

Do I need to show copyright info during a live stream?

No, there are no display requirements for online streaming. Edit 3/11/2021: However, you should follow your copyright holder’s requirement on this if they state otherwise for their specific service. (CCLI specifically may now have a requirement for this in their product, though as of this update to the blog post, it’s not written anywhere in their terms of service).

How do I make sure my live stream doesn’t get taken down or a strike against my account?

This question is hard to answer… having a copyright license will NOT ensure that your live stream doesn’t get taken down. But if the platform you are using allows you to dispute a copyright claim, having the copyright license does give you the upper hand in keeping your content online after it’s been flagged for a strike or takedown.

Here are some common things that will get a stream or video taken down:

  1. Backing tracks. Having backing tracks, more specifically master tracks, being played with/behind a band. Even if you have been given permission to use those tracks, many of the automated systems on platforms like YouTube or Facebook will flag and potentially take down videos with these in them. One solution if that happens to you is just not to have the backing tracks come through you live feed and to only be used in person… but that’s not a great solution. If you want to fill out your sound there are ways to make sure that your tracks don’t flag the stream! The simplest way is to play in such a way that parts of the recording aren’t being played without a live instrument played over top. Adjust the volume of the different tracks for different points during a song so that you have a live instrument that’s always audible.
  2. Pre-recorded music. If you have music that you play pre-service, post-service, or even during your service, that music can trigger automated systems to flag your live stream. Alternatively, find music that is royalty-free to play on the live stream or record your own music for playback.
  3. Pre-produced videos. Not only can the audio from a pre-recorded video flag your content, but so can the actual video itself. Sometimes there can be copyright surrounding a specific video, or something happening within that video that can trigger a video to be flagged. Many organizations will put up a still saying that copyright material is currently being broadcasted and the live stream will be back momentarily. Instead of showing the content, they show something else temporarily so that their live stream isn’t taken down.

As an extra note, just because something is flagged on YouTube or Facebook does not mean that the video will be taken down, it can mean that a copyright holder is flagging your content as being owned by them. In this case, your video can still stay up for viewing but may be subject to advertising and profiting for the copyright holder.

Learn more about our live worship software here or click the button below to return to the live streaming guide.

Renewed Vision

Renewed Vision was established in 2000 as an endeavor to create world class production tools for ministries. Since then, we have served organizations around the world and our passion for excellent software for live events is burning just as bright today as it did when we began.

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