Be Safe, Not Sorry When Live Streaming Your Worship Services

Oct. 26, 2016 – Sharing your worship services with a larger audience is easier than ever, thanks to live streaming. You can reach people who don’t attend your church, those who prefer an online faith community and members of your congregation who are traveling, ill or home-bound.

While live streaming worship services is relatively new, videotaping is not. Many of the same concerns relating to video recordings – privacy and copyrighted content, in particular – apply to live streaming as well. If you currently live stream your church’s worship services, or are thinking about it, keep these considerations in mind.

Privacy

The potential reach of the Internet is massive, with estimates suggesting that there are more than 3 billion Internet users worldwide. Someone attending or participating in a local church service may not wish to appear in a broadcast to the world through a live stream of the service. Here are a few ways to respect members’ privacy while live streaming:

Raise awareness. While there is generally no reasonable expectation of privacy in a worship service that is open to the public, it’s a good idea to let attendees know that services will be broadcast via live stream or digital recording – this way, they can determine the amount of information they’re comfortable providing if, say, they want to make a prayer request or share a health update regarding a fellow member of the congregation. You can accomplish this through signs and/or notices in the church’s bulletin, newsletter, electronic newsletter and other communications.

Create “no video” zones. Designate specific places or areas within the worship center where video does not reach so members who don’t want to appear on video can comfortably gather there.

Get permission. Exercise particular care with minors. Avoid putting their names and images on the live stream, or, at the very minimum, proceed only with authorization from their parents or guardians. Also be mindful about personal prayer requests and health updates – these should only be streamed with the consent of the individual in question.

Copyrighted Content

The religious service exemption under U.S. copyright law allows for the performance and display of copyrighted work of a religious nature during on-site religious services. The exemption applies to “the performance of a nondramatic literary or musical work or of a dramatico-musical work of a religious nature, or the display of work, in the course of services at a place of worship or other religious assembly.”

However, this exemption does not extend to live streaming or retransmission of the service over the Internet because live streaming is considered a broadcast performance. Therefore, when material that was not created or developed by a church staff member is included in a worship service, copyright concerns must be addressed. For example, musical performances, video segments and readings of another’s literary works (such as poems) raise copyright issues.

Churches have two basic options for addressing these concerns when live streaming or recording their service:

(1) Secure permission from the owner of each copyrighted work for such use. This option is administratively burdensome because it requires someone from the church to verify the copyright owner for each work sought to be used, locate contact information, reach out to the owner to secure permission, and pay any fees the owner may charge for such use.

(2) Consider securing a blanket license for music, video and/or streaming, and only use selections that are covered by the license. It’s important to note that there are typically separate licenses for musical works, video clips and streaming your service. The music license typically does not allow for use of video and the video license does not typically allow for the video to be live streamed through your website. Your place of worship will need to ascertain which license is appropriate for what your organization would like to do. While there are several sources for obtaining blanket licenses, the most common are Christian Copyright Licensing International or “CCLI”Christian Video Licensing International or “CVLI”Christian Copyright Solutions, and OneLicense.net.

By appropriately – and proactively – addressing privacy and copyright concerns, your church can enjoy a positive live stream experience.

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© 2019 The GuideOne Center for Risk Management, LLC. All rights reserved.This material is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to give specific legal or risk management advice, nor are any suggested checklists or action plans intended to include or address all possible risk management exposures or solutions. You are encouraged to retain your own expert consultants and legal advisors in order to develop a risk management plan specific to your own activities.