Information about copyright

Music. Streaming. Video. Text.

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 APRA 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 license 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, including their a podcast/streaming licence option.
  • 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.

Do you need a licence to stream online worship and devotions?

Many churches are choosing to stream worship online so that everyone in their church community can participate wherever they may be. There has been a rise in churches streaming as NZers isolate at home to help stem the spread of coronavirus Covid-19. During this time, it is important that churches live-streaming worship do not breach copyright. Depending on the content of your worship, you may need a streaming licence.

See more on the CCLI streaming licence here. The CCLI Streaming allows you to stream or podcast your live-recorded worship service music on your church’s website or other social media. You can include your music along with the minister's message.

See the One License streaming licence here. The One License licence grants permission to podcast or live-stream or post pre-recorded services on your website, Facebook page, YouTube, email newsletter, or other social media that contain music from One License member publishers.

Unsure of the licencing differences between YouTube, Facebook, and your church's website or Facebook page? Watch the One License webinar recorded 19 March 2020.

What about screening movies?

You need a licence for any public screening of a film (or portion of film). Movies 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....

Can I screen YouTube, Netflix and other online video?

YouTube videos can be shown in your church only if the video is on an official channel and you have permission from the copyright owner. You can read more about this on the CCLI website. If you’re unable to get permission or verify that the video is on an official YouTube channel, try sourcing the content in an alternative format, such as a DVD or a legal download. Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, iTunes are all official sources of video content and may be used in conjunction with the CCLI church Video License.

If you are looking to use content from other online sites, always check the terms and conditions and satisfy yourself that that website is authorised by the copyright owner to make that content available.

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.

What about text? Can someone reproduce text off my church website?

Generally, if someone wants to use your original written content (website text, booklet, article etc) in a way that copyright exclusively reserves to you the copyright owner (such as copying or uploading onto their own website), they need your permission. 
Reproducing content in full
You as the creator of original content retain publisher rights.  You can give permission to reproduce in full your content. So, where a third party wishes to use your text in full without changes to the text and completely as originally published by you, you can give permission with agreement that the third party includes the full text bibliographic details ie this article is reproduced in full from booklet… by... link to the website etc. You might also ask for payment or come to some other arrangement. The third party cannot just acknowledge you as the creator - they still have to contact you and get permission. They should seek your permission in writing, and you do not need to give permission if you do not want to – read more.
Fair Use
What if the third party only wants to reproduce a small piece of your text? They may or may not need you permission.
If the third party intends to only use part of your copyright work there is no copyright issue unless they want to use "an important, distinctive or essential part… it is the quality of what is taken that matters, rather than the quantity. A very small part of a work can be considered substantial for the purposes of copyright infringement. You may need permission if you want to copy a small part of a poem or story.” Read more about when permission is and isn't required.