Information about copyright

How can you avoid breaching copyright when playing music or projecting the words of songs during church services?

In New Zealand copyright law is covered by the Copyright Act 1994 and subsequent amendments. If your church copies music, project lyrics, prints lyrics and poems, screen movies from DVDs and the internet etc then as churches are public places you will need a copyright licence (that is if the work you want to use is not your own original work or free of copyright). See information below on when a license is required and which license will meet your needs. 

  • You can purchase a licence from ARPA that allows the public performance of works in the association’s repertoire at church-related functions.
    Visit the APRA website for more information. Bear in mind that the music you are playing needs to be a legal copy.
  • You need a different licence to copy the words of songs for display on overhead screens, PowerPoint presentations, or printed bulletins. The Church Copyright Licence offers a licence that covers normal church activities for a fee based on the size of your congregation. Check out CCLI for more information.
  • One License offers a license that provides unlimited permission to reproduce music owned by all its member publishers, with or without a podcast/streaming licence option.

What about screening movies?

You need a licence for any public screening of a film (or portion of film). DVDs that you buy or rent are for home-use only.


  1. You can get a Church Video Licence from Christian Copyright Licensing International. This covers public viewings in your church of films from more than 60 producers, including many major studios. More information, including cost and the list of producers, is available from
  2. If you choose not to get this licence, or if the film you wish to show is not from one of its participating producers, then you contact the copyright owner directly to obtain a screening licence each time you screen a movie. Australia New Zealand Screen Association can supply contacts for film distributors. 

Want to screen YouTube at church? It's not straightforward so read more on this here.

What if you’re a composer and want to protect your work?

  • Here is some useful information on copyright at APRA. In simple terms: you automatically have copyright over anything you compose but you need to be proactive in asserting this right.
  • If your work is regularly performed in public, you can join APRA, which will collect royalties on your behalf through its licensing scheme.