Christian artists have started announcing that churches can play their songs for free when they live stream their services this Sunday.
As the majority of churches broadcast their meetings to members over the internet, many are confused about whether they are allowed to include the songs. Many skip the communal singing out of fear that they are breaking copyright rules.
Facebook and Youtube have deals with music rights companies such as PRS, meaning broadcasting on their platforms does not require a licence, whereas streaming the same songs on a church's own website would. Skype and Zoom also do not have such deals.
Lots of churches have licences paid for already through website CCLI, who make it clear which songs are in the public domain as well and are therefore free.
Live streaming (with the video showing once and then taken down) is also legally safer than leaving the video up.
To help out churches who are worried about making these mistakes, some Chrisitan songwriters are letting churches use their lyrics and compositions for free, sometimes with credit, so that congregations can keep on singing.
Sovereign Grace Music were among the first and told Premier that they are trying to get permission to make their music free to UK churches as well but have only done so in America so far.
The people behind 'All I Have Is Christ', announced on Twitter: "A number of people have contacted us during the COVID-19 crisis to see if they can live stream our songs without a license. We are happy to give you permission! We just ask that you include the copyright information for each song used."
You can find copyright information for all of our songs on our website, https://t.co/SSRIFOMHRL.— SovereignGraceMusic (@SovGraceMusic) March 18, 2020
And we pray that you and the members of your church will take great comfort in knowing we worship a sovereign God and a sufficient Savior who is ever with us through his Spirit.
Director of Sovereign Grace, Bob Kaufflin, added: "People have asked if during the COVID-19 crisis they can live stream our songs without a licence. We are happy to give you permission! Just include the copyright info for each song. And keep making much of Jesus!"
Matt Searles, a songwriter and preacher who lives in Oxford has also done so and has been encouraging his peers to do the same.
Searles told Premier: "I just put a thing online on my website saying all my songs can be sung without copyright restrictions and without licences. That's something I can do because I'm independent artist and not signed to a big label who would hold copyrights, I hold those.
"It's been lovely to see that people have have sort of gravitated to songs they know they can use freely without getting into trouble further down the line. I've made all my music free to download, free to use in whatever form so people do what will be most helpful."
Richard Simpkin, music coordinator at St Helen's Bishopsgate in London, has written modern tunes for ‘How firm a foundation’ and ‘Oh wonderful, wonderful word of the Lord’ and was promted by Matt Searles to do the same - as was Matt MacGregor, from St Andrew the Great church in Cambridge, who marked all the songs he is happy to be used for free on the church's website.
There hasn't been any similar UK announcements yet from big artists such as Getty Music, Stuart Townsend nor Matt Redman.