If a church produces newsletters whether printed or digital or uses a website to circulate information, news and updates, consideration should always be given to the origin and ownership of the items featured and whether copyright may exist.

Copyright refers to the exclusive rights given to a creator to publish, print, perform or copy their original work. Copyrighted items can include poems, prose extracts and song or hymn lyrics.

Items may be published only where the owners allow free use of their items (copyright-free); or where the copyright owner of the original work died over 50 years ago for most types of written, dramatic and artistic works, and at least 25 years for photographs (public domain).

If you wish to publish something that’s protected by copyright, you must seek written (or emailed) permission from the copyright holder before it appears in your newsletter or website, failure to obtain this could result in legal action being taken against the church.

If you do unintentionally print a copyrighted item our church choice policy includes publishers’ indemnity cover under the liability section for damages, costs and expenses for libel, slander, infringement of trademark, etc. arising from any materials published in your church magazine or other official publications. Church Choice provides cover for up to £100,000 for any one period of cover.

In addition to publishing items, it is important to be aware that there are copyright implications for reproducing and/or projecting copyright protected hymns and worship songs in church meetings. Churches should have a church copyright license to reproduce such items.

If you are concerned about any aspect of copyright law or what licenses your church should obtain, further information can be found on the Christian Copyright Licensing International (CCLI) website. There is a range of licenses, resources and support to help churches utilise multimedia in their day to day activities.

The government website also provides guidance in respect of using copyrighted material.