Hey, Fletch: Is Our Church Website Violating Copyright Law?

Church Law & Tax | 10/28/2011 | Staff
tictac399 (Posted by) Level 3
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In this regular column, longtime executive pastor and XPastor.org founder David Fletcher takes on readers’ questions about finances, staffing, communications, and more. Submit your questions using the subject line "Hey, Fletch" to editor@churchlawandtax.com.

We live-stream our worship service and also have some recorded worship songs on our website. Someone asked me if these activities are legal. Thoughts?

Worms - Cans - Worth - Issue - Worship

That is a huge can of worms. Actually it is two cans’ worth. The first issue is live-streaming your worship and the second is using recorded songs on your website.

You will want to get this one right. Otherwise, the penalties can be stiff. There is an organization that you need to check out: Christian Copyright Licensing International (CCLI). Here is why you need CCLI. A 2017 ChurchLeaders.com article stated:

Music - Richard - Cupolo - John - Emanuele

Yesh Music (Richard Cupolo and John Emanuele) filed a complaint on October 28, 2011, claiming that First Baptist Church Smyrna (TN) used two of Yesh’s compositions in videos streamed from (the church’s) website. The complaint also details Yesh’s assertion that no license was granted for this use. Yesh is seeking $150,000 for each infringement in addition to attorneys’ fees.

When I said the penalties could be stiff, that was an understatement. There is the fine to consider. There is also the public relations nightmare of having your church in the news and in a lawsuit. Your church’s integrity will be tarnished.

CCLI - Offers - Types - Licenses - Interest

CCLI offers three types of licenses of interest to churches:

The CCLI Copyright License covers projecting lyrics in worship and providing song sheets and songbooks. You can record your...
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