4 Dec 2020

Getting “Copy Right”


We provide a guide with some essential signposting to help and support chaplaincies on how to get “copy right” on use of music and images, particularly given online church needs during Advent, Christmas and Epiphany. *

Music and copyright

In these times of online church, the most commonly asked question is:   What music can I use in our services?

There are websites that you can visit with a simple google search such as “rights free music”, and you will be able to find a large number of options.  Where music is clearly indicated as rights free, it can be downloaded and played as a user wishes.

Apart from such music, however, music is subject to copyright, and licensing on its use therefore applies.  This is the case for a significant proportion of Church music.   “But how can Bach’s music be subject to copyright when he’s been dead for over 250 years?” is a commonly heard query.   The issue is not a composer’s original music, but subsequent recording of such music by an artist.   Without copyright, the artist will not receive royalties for his/her work; and many people, including those who work in and for our churches, depend on such income.

There is some music available online that has been made available publicly under what is called Creative Commons licence.  This means that material has been shared by the originator, to allow it to be used.  With over 1.6 billion online products shared by originators for public use under Creative Commons, they are an abundant source.  In such a case, terms of proper attribution of sources will apply, so do check the terms of the licence.

Then there is the question that follows, given the use of online platforms like Zoom, Facebook and YouTube:  What music can I stream during online services?    

To address this, and for online Church purposes, the Diocese suggests that chaplaincies check whether it is possible to obtain and purchase a licence from Christian Copyright Licensing International (CCLI). CCLI offer agreements internationally that cover the use of copyrighted music, and we’re currently in touch with them to request latest information on which countries they cover across Europe.  

In addition, CCLI offer the possibility of a streaming add-on.  As an alternative, you could try One License. We advise chaplaincies, wherever possible to:

  • Purchase a CCLI licence; and
  • for online church (the cost depends on the size of your congregation and your requirements), purchase the streaming add-on.

This is because by purchasing a licensing agreement, you should be able to access a full range of online church resources made available by the national church via the A Church Near You Resource Hub.

A Church Near You Resource Hub

You can register for an account to access these resources:

The Church of England, working with St Martin-in-the-Fields and the Royal School of Church Music, is providing a resource of rights-free music for use on streamed services, which is accessible to chaplaincies in the Diocese in Europe. 

Advent, Christmas and Epiphany music is now available to download. This music has been planned to be used in services from Advent Sunday to Epiphany 2021, 6 January 2021. (The next set of music will be released for Sunday, 10 January 2021.)    The Church of England Digital Communications team advise on this part of their site:

  • Churches who wish to use this music as part of services via YouTube, Facebook, Zoom or other platforms must hold a CCLI Licence and add the streaming option to it. Read more here on how to do this and purchase that license on the CCLI website.
  • This music is not covered under One License (it is covered by CCLI because it’s the more widely owned licence by CofE churches)
  • The licensing agreement governs the repertoire of music that the Church of England uses.  All music has been recorded carefully following all UK Government guidelines for social distancing.

On the ACNY hub, you will find over 70 tracks are available to download for Advent, Christmas and Epiphany including a selection of 10 traditional Christmas Carols.

For more information on the CofE licensing arrangements see:

Copyright guides

Here are some copyright guides produced by YouTube and Facebook:



This is the Church of England’s guide to copyright:

Overall, we advise the precautionary principle in your use of music to stream during services. This means it is worth including the source of the music in your online order of service. A simple option would be to indicate (if it is the case):

As regards YouTube and Facebook, as well as Zoom platforms, we would advise you to ensure that the music you stream is covered by a copyright licence you hold prior to the service or other public event in order to avoid the possibility of infringement.

Copyright and images

We know how difficult it can be to find good or new pictures for your websites – we often have the same challenge in the Diocese.

However, please do not be tempted to use images like photos you happen to see in other media, or from other websites or organisations, and put them up on your chaplaincy websites.   

Large organisations actively use agents to monitor, detect and follow-up the use of images under copyright.  It doesn’t matter if, say, it’s a picture taken of Church of England event to be able to judge it is in order to post it, however obscurely placed you might think it is on your website. It’s the individual or company that took the picture who gain royalties. Fines for a single copyright breach can be large (exceeding 1000 EUR).

The safest way for a chaplaincy not to risk such punitive action is not to use images under copyright at all.   

However, again, help is close at hand for chaplaincies via the A Church Near You Resources Hub.  There you will find a ready supply of pics and videos including from websites including

At the bottom of each page where you have used one of these resources, please write: Image/video: CC from The Church of England.

Pixabay and Pexels are other sites that offer free-to-use images.  These are used frequently by Diocesan Communications.

It is also good and courteous practice to acknowledge any originator, including from a free stock photo site like Unsplash, in your piece to be published.


Given over 80 legal jurisdictions in the Diocese, we’re not able to offer a pan-diocesan, one-size fits approach on copyright issues.  But we hope these essential pointers will help chaplaincies.  We’ll keep this guidance under review, and update it as needed.


*Please note that you will need to check the legal position regarding copyright in your legal jurisdiction.  The content of this article is for help and support, and does not constitute Diocese in Europe Board of Finance legal advice to users of this site.


Diocesan Communications