HomeChurch OnlineLive StreamingCopyright and Other Live Streaming Considerations You Can’t Ignore

Copyright and Other Live Streaming Considerations You Can’t Ignore


There are key details churches often overlook when beginning a live streaming ministry. Copyright law, content delivery, and metadata use are vital elements to the success of online ministry. When church leaders pay attention to these key areas of live streaming, more people can be reached with the Good News.

Let’s tackle these three live streaming considerations your church can’t afford to ignore: 

#1 – Copyright Law Concerns

Many ministries are familiar with the Religious Service Exemption in American copyright law. This allows copyrighted songs to be performed during religious services without the need for a license. However, you may not realize that this exemption does not apply to a broadcast of a religious service, including online streaming. This means that if you stream your services, songs performed during your services may infringe copyright unless you obtain a performance license. This goes for both live and recorded audio, as either could be considered as re-broadcasting copyrighted material. 

How to Avoid Copyright Infringement

How can you avoid copyright infringement? There are a few things your ministry can do to ensure that you stay on the right side of the law. A good place to start would by outlining your entire service. Create a list of all the audio and video content you plan on using during your service. You will be able to plan in advance for any potential copyright infringements.

Now that you know where copyright issues may lie, you have three options: you can purchase a license, change the content, or prepare alternative content.

The first is relatively straightforward. Resources such as Christian Copyright Licensing International and Christian Copyright Solutions help ministries obtain and understand licenses. If you cannot obtain a license, you can either change the content for the service or prepare alternative content. You can play different content for your online audience while keeping the original copyrighted material in your physical service.

However, please note that on social media sites, like YouTube, obtaining a license or preparing alternative content may not be sufficient. These social media sites can be fallible in how they manage and censor content. We have heard from clients whose channels were shut down because YouTube’s algorithm accidentally flagged them for copyright. This happened even though they were the original owners of the copyrighted material. This isn’t a problem with stand-alone video platforms – an important detail to keep in mind when choosing an Online Video Platform (OVP). You can use an OVP to stream services to your Online Campus, mobile apps, or set-top box applications (OTT).

#2 – Content Delivery Options

Streaming your service over your website is a great way to reach your online audience, but it isn’t the only way. As technology progresses, there are more ways than ever to stay connected. Two of these that are particularly interesting for ministries are OTT and apps.

Over the Top (OTT) Content

OTT content is content delivered over the internet, typically as a standalone product. Some practical examples of OTT providers include Apple TV, iTunes, Netflix, Roku, Hulu, and Amazon. Using an OTT provider to deliver your content can be a great way to reach people in their homes. Their easy-to-use digital devices can be connected to a television. This also makes it easier for people to enjoy these online services together, creating a small group experience for friends and families who wish to take in a church service together.

Mobile Application

Another way to reach people and build your community is through a mobile application. With your own app, your ministry can give your online congregation a space to watch your videos. This enables them engage with your messages on their phones and tablets. Apps also give ministries the ability to send “push notifications,” which can notify users when a new service is about to start, or new on-demand content is available to them. According to some statistics, over 75% of online video is watched on mobile devices. An application makes it easier than ever for your online audience to watch your content. 

#3 – Maximizing Metadata

Making your content easy to watch is one thing, but making it easy to find is another entirely. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a way to tailor your content in order to rank higher in search engine results. It is a critical consideration to ensure that your message is shared online. Regardless if you are a business, a newspaper, or a ministry, SEO will impact your reach. Metadata is a critical aspect of your organizations’ SEO strategy. Metadata and metatags are what search engines use to match searchers with online content. It is what prompts your ministry’s video to pop up when someone types a subject into a search engine. It also helps determine how high on the list it will be.

There are three main kinds of metadata: descriptive, structural, and administrative, and they each serve an important purpose. However, many ministries only focus on descriptive metadata, which highlights information about the content like the title, subject, scripture references, or keywords. Structural metadata (how your content is assembled) and administrative metadata (ownership and captioning information) are also very important for helping search engines, and the people using them, to find your ministry’s content.

Moving Forward

Now that you are a little more familiarized with how copyright law, content delivery options, and metadata have an impact on your online ministry, you may be wondering what other important aspects of live streaming you might have missed. 

Haivision has put together A Guide to Online Ministry, a white paper that not only handles the above subjects in greater detail but also reviews all of the important aspects of online ministry, from choosing a streaming solution to using analytics to help your ministry grow. This guide is an ideal resource for anyone in faith streaming, from those just getting started, to those with years of experience with online ministry.

For More Information on Live Streaming:

How to be Missional With Your Church Live Stream

Ready Your Church Audio for Live Streaming

Live Stream Your Church Services for Almost Nothing

Could Live Streaming Kill the Church?

5 Myths About Small Church Live Streaming

Philip Gauthier
Philip Gauthierhttps://www.haivision.com/
Philip Gauthier is the director of account management for Haivision, a market leader in enterprise video and video streaming technologies, where he supports live and on-demand distribution for more than 250 houses of worship, including the largest and fasted growing churches in the United States. Philip served in media ministry for over 16 years and greatly enjoys speaking on the use of digital media for ministry growth at regional and national conferences. When not on his Mac or iOS devices, he enjoys spending time with his family, riding his Harley, cooking, photography and traveling.  



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