Last updated April 19, 2023
During the pandemic, many Churches of Christ, Scientist, Christian Science Societies, Christian Science Organizations, and Christian Science Informal Groups (“Branches”) moved their activities online, and soon found themselves ministering to congregations which included some people who were formerly unable to attend in-person services. These expanded congregations together experienced much love, joy, and inspiration.
As Branches go back to in-person services, it’s no surprise that they still want to enable people unable to join their services in person to join remotely. As a result, many Branches are taking steps to offer their services simultaneously to both their in-person and remote congregants. These blended in-person and online services are referred to as hybrid.
The two new copyright Guidelines include new and revised information about the use of copyrighted works, including music, in hybrid services in the US, but are also of interest to Branches elsewhere.
These Guidelines will walk you through some options to help your Branch determine how it wants to handle the complexities of copyright in hybrid services. The first Guidelines document has general information about copyright and hybrid services, and we recommend reviewing it first. The second Guidelines document has specific information about using copyrighted music in hybrid services. Each document has a Table of Contents to locate specific sections (although the Guidelines should be read in their entirety to get a complete picture).
At the beginning of the pandemic, many copyright owners in the US temporarily allowed religious organizations to use their musical works in online services without the licensing or compensation for the use of their works that would normally be required.
As there are no longer government restrictions on in-person gatherings, there is a return to the licensing requirements that existed pre-pandemic. The sense of surprise that some US Branches may feel with respect to these requirements does not mean that these requirements are actually new—they are not—but rather stem from the fact that most Branches entered the online world during a time when these requirements were largely in abeyance.
Time, effort, and the cost of purchasing licenses may be required for Branches to hold hybrid services going forward. For some Branches, the simplest option may be to go back to in-person-only services. One way for Branches to provide hybrid services without spending much time and effort to research music copyright requirements would be to limit their music selections to those available for this purpose on The Mother Church website, although the selection of solos, preludes and postludes provided there is minimal.
For those Branches that want to provide a fuller musical experience in their hybrid services, we have created the second Guidelines document to help you understand music rights and licensing.
A few of the topics covered in the Guidelines documents include:
Where do we purchase a license that will allow us to use copyrighted music and how much does it cost?
Is audio-only the simplest option and would that be a good choice for our Branch’s hybrid services?
What if we want to include video?
Will a license allow us to livestream our services?
Will a license allow us to record our services and post them on our website or social media page?
What about posting lyrics?
What about the personal privacy rights of congregants?
Finally, people sometimes ask how The Mother Church handles these seemingly complicated and time-consuming matters. The answer is that they are complicated and time-consuming for The Mother Church, too.
The Mother Church annually purchases broad licenses from three of the major music rights licensing companies in the US, and before each hybrid service checks the copyright status of each musical selection chosen to make sure it can be legally broadcast. If a license cannot be obtained for a particular piece of music, the piece is not used and an alternate must be found. Every hybrid service involves substantial work in advance by Mother Church staff.
Please be sure to read all of the content on this page first before visiting these links, which are provided for quick reference.