Live streaming your worship services on YouTube may sound like a bargain, but there are legal risks that could cost you.
YouTube (which is owned by Google) scans every video streamed and uploaded for copyrighted material. The computers at Google scan your video to see if you’ve included video and/or audio that doesn’t belong to you.
That includes music and singing, something that happens during every church worship service. If Google finds a song (or songs) in your live stream that belong to someone else, the live stream could be shut down and the video removed. When that happens, you could be locked out for hours (or longer) until the issue is resolved.
I’ve read stories where a user had licenses and permission to sing the song, and yet they still get blocked.
Bottom Line: If you have a YouTube channel full of hundreds of your sermons, you could lose access to all of them with one bad video. I recommend you avoid live streaming and uploading singing and music to your YouTube channel. Instead, you should look at streaming your worship services on a platform such as Ustream, Livestream, or Wowza.
In addition, the copyright owner of the music could fine you for live streaming without paying licensing fees to the music labels.
Simply singing the music inside your church building during a worship service is fair use and legal, but the problem comes when you “broadcast” the singing and the music to the internet. Once you do that, you are now using the internet as a broadcast tool just like a TV or radio station, thereby committing yourself to the same rules as other broadcasters.
The good news is that special licenses have been created for churches. One is by CCLI which covers Christian music; the other by CCS which covers all music in the ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC libraries. The good news is these licenses are usually very inexpensive. In fact, one varies in price based on the average number of people who attend your worship services.
I encourage churches to talk with their licensing agents and acquire the appropriate license needed to cover internet broadcasting.