The United Reformed Church
Musicians’ Guild

Copyright and the

Local Church




All materials, words, music and illustrations, during the lifetime of an author or composer and for a period of 50 years after death, are covered by the Copyright Act of 1988. In July 1995 the period was extended to 70 years after death.


Permission must be obtained in writing for all items used which are within the 70 year time limit, and since such permissions are given or withheld at the discretion of the copyright holder, an application must be made and a reply received, before the printing of a service sheet or any other kind of publication. Such permission may include the payment of a fee, specific wording and a note as to the positioning of an acknowledgement. Music or material to be included in a publication intended for re-sale will usually be subject to a more detailed application to the copyright holder and the payment of a larger fee or royalty. These conditions also apply to Overhead Transparencies and projection of material (eg Powerpoint). The Bible, in the Authorised Version is in perpetual copyright and permission must be sought before any part, longer than one verse, is reproduced. All other versions are covered by the Copyright Act.



Service sheets for special occasions, including weddings, funerals, ordinations and inductions etc are subject to the same regulations, although for a funeral permission may be sought by telephone. For these occasions the fee is sometimes waived.

Photocopying pre-printed material is totally illegal without permission. The rights to the page image of any publication are held by the body responsible for the work for 25 years after the date of the last printing; eg the United Reformed Church retains the page rights of the Book of Services (1980) both of which is now out of print, as well as the Service Book (1989). In addition to obtaining permission to photocopy from the body responsible, copyright will also need to be cleared for each item used which falls within the time limits listed above. The copyright holder for the volume is generally shown on the reverse of the title page and individual copyright holders are listed separately, or where requested, alongside each item.


New arrangements of copyright material, words or music, can only be made and circulated after written permission is obtained from the copyright holder.

Some material, deemed to be in the Public Domain, which may be freely used in magazines etc is available in books, magazines, computer programmes and on web-sites. This is usually labelled as “copyright free”.
The Christian Copyright Licensing Association administers the Copyright Licence Scheme which covers most, but not all, publishers of hymns. For the payment of an annual fee and the completion of an annual return, material covered by the scheme may be used freely. Separate schemes are operated for words and for music.

Sound Recordings of services or other live worship which are for non-commercial use are covered by the CCL licence. If audio or visual recordings are made for limited sale and distribution a Limited Manufacture Licence is required

All theses licences are available from Christian Copyright Licensing, PO Box 1339, Eastbourne BN21 1AD.



Copyright and web sites
 The `web’ is accessible world wide and material that is within the legal copyright period may not be reproduced on any web-site without clearance for world-wide usage being obtained in writing from the copyright holder and the payment of any fee requested. This also applies to music played on any site in any form whatsoever and permission for words (if being used), music and arrangement must be sought. If a commercial recording is used this will involve not only the composer and/or arranger but also permission from the artist(s) or their agent. Production of music using a midi-device is also in breach of copyright regulations, and permission to do this must be sought from the copyright holder for any use whatsoever. For hymns and hymn tunes a list of copyright holders is included in all published hymn books.
Performing Rights Society (PRS) Licence

Christian Copyright Licensing (Europe) are now the agents for PRS Church Licences.

 A PRS Church Licence is needed for churches and church halls where the playing of, or permitting the use of, music of almost any kind takes place. It is now the responsibility of the Church to obtain the licence.  



‘Music Use’ includes one or more of the following: concerts and recitals; discos, dances and karioke sessions, areobic; keep fit or dancing classes; film or video shows; background music by means or television, radio; tape recorders, CD, video players and juke boxes at such events as coffee mornings, youth clubs, fetes, bazaars etc.
Where music is strictly confined to Divine Worship only, PRS will not press for a licence to be obtained for the time being. However should this decision be changed the PRS Church Licence covering secular performances will be deemed to cover music at Divine Worship without distinction or further charge.

Other Licences available from CCLI for Church Activities :
Church Video Licence:
permits the showing of clips from or full length feature films
Copyright Licensing Agency : for copying from non-music publications.
Wedding Video Recording Licence : when the
wedding couple are not church members, or the wedding is being recorded by a professional videographer.

For more information visit the CCLI website at


Published by the URC Musicians' Guild 2009