A note about livestreaming and song licensing in churches

16 March 2020

In light of Covid-19 and lots of churches moving their services online I had a chat with CCLI and PRS for music around the legalities of live streaming the sung worship in your church. What follows is my understanding of the situation… please note that I am not a copyright lawyer.


Too long… didn't read:


The short summary of my call - If you are using streaming services like YouTube or Facebook live you're fine because they have paid the license for user generated content. This means that your church's band, organist, solo pianist, etc is treated like a covers band on these platforms. Playing 'covers' of the latest worship songs is permitted.

What you can't do is use commercially recorded music and sing over the top of it - don't livestream your church karaoke - that recording is copyrighted. If you want to stream recordings of songs (eg: a track from the latest Hillsong album) you’ll need to jump through some hoops with PRS (unless the artist has given permission - but even that is problematic because of automatic checking by YouTube and Facebook).

If you are using something other than Facebook or YouTube I would encourage you to double check the service provider's policy for such things. I know of a number of churches that are using services like Skype and Zoom, I doubt that they have that kind of license in place. Read on…

If you are using something like Zoom or Skype, or if (for some reason) a technically competent member of your church built from scratch their own live streaming platform… PRS for Music has the Limited Online Music Licence, band A costs ~£150 year and should cover you, however have a chat with PRS first.

Frustrating the same does not apply to displaying song lyrics. This is a bit unclear, I think that you need to either:

For all other questions related to the church and Coronavirus there is a growing Google Doc that is being put together by a number of excellent and trusted friends: covid.churcheshandbook.co.uk.

*Nb: Strong disclaimer here: I'm not a lawyer, I'm just someone who had a couple of phone calls over lunch. I'll update this post if my understanding of the situation changes.


Updated 19th March with details about displaying song lyrics.

Updated 20th March with details about the new CCLI streaming license

Updated 21st March with TlDr section and revisions to how lyrics are handled

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