Are we allowed to do that?
This morning, someone asked a very good question on our church live-stream broadcast, after we ran into some licensing issues: “Are you allowed to play that video”. (It was a Kari Jobe music video). I say it’s a good question as most people don’t realize how complicated it is for us to 1) lead worship in a church environment and, 2) produce online services – so I thought this post may be both interesting and helpful. The best way for me to explain is to go through a simple Sunday Service:
When the band arrives on a Sunday morning to play the songs we sing, they log into an app called Planning Center and access chord charts so we all play the same thing. These chord charts are copyright protected, and so we a licence which allows our volunteers to access these charts. Every time a chart is accessed a record is kept and we submit that report every year and pay a license fee.
Soon after the band get together, our media team switch on our media projection software and display the song lyrics on the screen. Displaying song lyrics publicly is protected by copyright, and so we also have a license to be able to display song lyrics. Similar to the chord charts, every year we submit a report of all the songs we have sung in the our services. You may have noticed though, thah we have 3 really cool screens at Eastside and so we want to use them as best we can, and so we use beautiful motion backgrounds behind the lyrics. Yip! You guessed it – we have to have a license for these as well!
Worship Loops & Tracks
Because we have a relatively small band made up of volunteers, we supplement our live sound by using loops and tracks. These are re-recorded sound clips, often from the original worship artists and sometimes by other freelance creators. Regardless of who created the tracks, because they are based on someone else’s song they are protected by copyright and so – yes – we have a license to be able to use these tracks in our worship services. Thankfully, we don’t need to report on these and the license is included in the cost of purchasing the tracks and loops.
Music and videos
When you come to church a little early, you will hear some music playing over the sound system. We do this for two reasons: Firstly, it’s really awkward walking into a quiet hall. Secondly, the music helps prepare us and transition us from the chaos of home, traffic etc to the peace of the sanctuary. By now you won’t be surprised, but yes, we have a license that allows us to play music for a certain amount of time every week before and after services and events. We also use some worship videos or other types of videos in our services from time to time, such as the video we used in the service on 17th Jan 2021, which are covered by our license.
What about online streaming
Well – here’s where it gets exciting. Everything you read above we have had in place for years. In April 2020 we started going online and it took nearly 6 months to find out which additional licenses we needed. In short – none of the licenses above covered us for online broadcast with the exception of the license for tracks and loops! We had to get new licenses for displaying lyrics, using the motion backgrounds and playing music and videos. When we stream anything live, Facebook and Youtube algorithms are constantly looking for any copyright infringement. If they find anything they know is copyrighted, they will either flag the broadcast or block the broadcast. When they do that, we have to submit our copyright license number to them and they will release the video they have flagged or blocked.
Here’s the really frustrating part: you have to do that for every video! We can’t simply send them our license and have them leave us alone for the foreseeable future. So what you may not know, and will know now, is that every week part of my “to-do” list is to deal with youtube to have content released. (Sidenote: Facebook are much more complicated to deal with, which is why we don’t stream our services to facebook).
Is it really worth the trouble?
Yes! Yes! Yes! It is such a privilege to be able to create and share content with our church family and those who have yet to hear the gospel that we will continue doing everything we can and need to so that you can enjoy the best we can do with what we have! The good news is that financially, these licenses don’t cost much at all!