When the pandemic began earlier this year, many churches immediately turned to pre-recorded or live-streamed worship services to maintain contact with their congregations. Six months later, online services have become a way to sustain our congregations and we are seeing clear benefits of continuing online worship. 

For those of you who may still be wavering on entering the online medium, we can assure you there are many perks to streaming your worship services. We have heard from many congregations that they are experiencing engagement from people outside of their typical worshiping body, and they have found that their online services have better connected them to their local communities. Through these online platforms, people who have moved away from the area are able to still be a part of the community and families can worship together from different parts of the world. If that’s not enough, here are a few other benefits to online worship:

  • Ability to widely share sermons and homilies.
  • Opportunity to receive live prayer requests using chats and comment sections.
  • Flexibility to have lectors or lay musicians participate by recording readings or music at home, and editing them into your service.
  • Integrating notifications to help remind members when your service is beginning.
  • Ability to watch your service at another time. We all know life happens, and we cannot always be where we want, when we want. With Facebook and YouTube, it’s easy for anyone to access the video of your service when they have the time and space to do so.
  • Flexibility for those involved in leading the service. For example, some pieces (or even the whole service) can be pre-recorded earlier in the week and then posted for your congregation to watch on Sunday morning.
  • Ability to archive the life of your congregation, including Baptisms, Confirmations, and other special events.

Congregations have found so many creative ways to make use of technology, including:

  • Conducting “Private” Zoom services that are meant only for your congregation, which are not recorded and are not reposted online
  • Recording “Private” Zoom services and then posting them on Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo, etc., for others to view
  • Live-streaming services through Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, etc.
  • Pre-recording services that are later posted on social media, your church website, etc.

No matter which format you use, one of our Podcast / Streaming Licenses will cover this use. A Podcast / Streaming License (either the individual Limited Podcast / Streaming License or bundled with the Annual Reprint License) is required to post your services that contain copyrighted music online. Whenever you take live music from live worship services outside of the four walls of your sanctuary and place them online, an additional royalty is owed to the composers, authors, arrangers, and other artists of that work. 

The Annual Reprint + Podcast / Streaming License bundle allows you to share ONE LICENSE titles in any video format for people to hear and see. This includes audio, text, and/or images. Our General Manager, Brenna C. Cronin, offers a humorous “volleyball” analogy that helps describe this concept. We serve you the ball (we give you the tools), and however you bump it, spike it, set it, kick it (or even drop it!) is up to you. In other words, we trust that you know your organization best, and whether your service is shown live or recorded on Wednesday and launched on Sunday, it’s all covered under our Podcast / Streaming License.

When using an online format for your worship services, it is important to remember that the use of commercial masters, master recordings, or professional CDs is not permitted or covered under your Podcast / Streaming License. This includes lyrics videos made by the artist. We know these videos are quite popular, as they provide an easy way for members to sing along. But because it is a commercial recording, you do not have permission to use them in your streamed services. We recommend that you engage your church staff, musicians, and/or congregants to make your own recordings of the music. To encourage your congregation to sing along at home, try one of the following:

  • Creating a downloadable worship aid.
  • Adding the lyrics to the description of your video.
  • Creating a music/lyric overlay within your video.

All of these options are permitted with our Annual Reprint + Podcast / Streaming License bundle. Please remember that a Reprint License is required to post text or share physical music (like a leaflet or worship aid). The Limited Podcast / Streaming License alone does not cover the sharing of text or physical copies of music.

To help ensure your organization does not have videos removed or incur “strikes” on your online accounts, it’s important to correctly display your permissions. As mentioned in our blog post Best Practices for Posting Your Services to Social Media, you need to display your copyright information for every piece used in the service as well as your license attribution line, which should state: “Reprinted / podcast / streamed with permission under ONE LICENSE #A-________. All rights reserved.” 

Here are some ways to display your permissions:

  1. In the description of your video.
  1. On a slide at the beginning or end of your service.
  1. On a slide or as a screen overlay with each song as it is performed, included as a subtitle underneath the song title.

With many hosting sites (Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo, etc.) using bots to evaluate posts quickly and efficiently, we suggest always including the copyright and license information in the description of the video (example 1), and using either examples 2 or 3 additionally if you have the ability to do so.

If you want to learn more about how your colleagues are finding long-term solutions in the digital world, we invite you to join us at one of our Call & Response webinars. Call & Response is designed to be a virtual office experience for the ONE LICENSE community. Balancing a webinar opportunity with casual conversation, C&R is a great place to ask questions about your license, learn from your peers, and discover new creative strategies to help you engage your congregation. To join us at our next Call and Response webinar, RSVP with the link provided in our monthly Newsletter or email our team.

Interested in adding the Podcast / Streaming License to your account? Contact our team at info@onelicense.net. We can also backdate that license to cover any services you have already streamed.  

Photo copyright: Magda Ehlers.  This image is available for download at www.pexels.com.

Example Screenshots used with permission from Pr. Greg Ronning (The Table OC) and the Sierra Pacific Synod (ELCA).

Lord, Let My Heart Be Good Soil. Text: Handt Hanson. © 1985, Prince of Peace Publishing/Changing Church, Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission under ONE LICENSE #A-736383. All rights reserved.

Special thanks to contributor Siobhán Maguire, License Holder Support Agent for ONE LICENSE.