A plea for copyright acknowledgement

In the course of my working day, a fair number of orders of service cross my desk. More often than I’d like, I’m sending them back asking for copyright acknowledgements to be added. (Sometimes, I fear, they cross my desk without copyright acknowledgement, and I don’t notice.) This is why I keep banging the copyright drum, keep insisting that orders of service should clearly display the source and copyright of the material they include:

The Church ought to model law-abiding behaviour. We teach that God is the source of law, and the just as we keep the ‘universal’ laws regarding theft, murder, arson et cetera, so we are obliged to keep the law of the land. This applies whether the law is for our benefit, and suits us, or whether the law is for the benefit of others, and causes us nuisance.

Historically, the Church has been a patron of the arts, and has encouraged poets, artists, dramatists and musicians, to the glory of God. Honouring copyright is a simple, everyday path to doing just that.

And it is simply courteous to acknowledge the work of others when we are using it. We should not be claiming other people’s art as our own work – which is what we implicitly do when we publish it without acknowledgement.


C.png ‘Copyright’ is the legal protection of a piece of writing. Any original piece of writing automatically has copyright protection – and ought not to be copied without permission. Publishing a work simply makes it easier to prove and trace that copyright.

Copyright means that something you write and produce is yours, and nobody else can use it without permission (or, at least, not until you’ve been dead for 70 years): So reproducing other people’s work – hymns, translations of the Bible, prayers etc – without permission is theft. The penalties for copyright infringement can be severe and expensive.

Properly speaking, even if you are copying something for your own use, you ought to note the copyright and ensure you have permission. This applies to print, recording, projection, web-based uses (live streaming or services such as YouTube or Vimeo), or any form of published work. It makes no difference whether you are producing it for news sheets, orders of service, handouts, overheads/powerpoint, an “extra” copy for the musician, or even if you are recording the service*.

Anytime you reproduce a copyrighted work you need to obtain permission.

The easiest way to get your copyright information – and permission – is through a CCLI license. The software they give you will tell you the copyright information of the songs they cover. You must, by law, display the author and the copyright when you reproduce somebody else’s material.

Common Worship was produced with the production of local leaflets in mind from the start. So we already have permission for the texts to be reproduced for personal reference and for local, non-commercial publications – as set out in A Brief Guide to liturgical copyright.  As long as:

  • The text is not altered in any way.page.png
  • The copies are not sold.
  • The name of the parish, team or group ministry, cathedral or institution is shown on the front cover (or first page if there is no cover). In the case of a single occasion use, the date of the service must also be included.
  • In the case of reproduction for repeated use the number of copies made from the same original does not exceed 500.
  • The correct copyright acknowledgement is included, as specified in A Brief Guide to liturgical copyright.
  • A Brief Guide to Liturgical Copyright also includes a list of the copyright acknowledgements for the principal English Bible translations.


This is not just the law of the land, or best practice, it is good discipleship and the honouring of our neighbour’s work.

Addendum- A list of commonly used songs which are not authorised by the CCL or MRL:



* And indeed, musicians in a recorded piece of music have rights over the use, copying, and broadcasting of that recording.


Author: @RoffenWorship

A Slightly Welsh Priest

2 thoughts on “ A plea for copyright acknowledgement”

  1. Hello Lindsay, an anecdote and “plea”! I was overjoyed when Link came out and there was a feature showing Calais, and delighted to see my pictures that I sent of the visit that took place in November. I noticed in the same paper your strictures on copyright and had a little misgiving that while I was very happy for the photos to have been used, and had given a general permission for the article and photographs that I had sent to be used in “any way” there was no acknowledgement of the source of the photos in a sidebar on them. (The photos were taken and used not the report – which was fine). I think that would be a requirement in a professional journal and a courtesy which would have meant I didn’t go round telling people – “great article – those photos are mine you know, I took them on my mobile”. Anyway, light amusement and something else to think about.


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