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Copyright Guidelines for Movies, Videos, Images, and Other Published Works

Updated: Jan 26, 2023

When your church uses creative media like music, lyrics, images, and videos in your worship services, we want you to be protected against legal actions due to copyright infringement. Here are some guidelines for the proper usage of creative content that has a copyright. This is the first of a five-part series from the Legal Services team of UMC Support about Copyright Law.

Video Licenses

1) CVLI – Church Video License + ScreenVue

Provides a license for churches and organizations to publicly show motion pictures, such as church movie nights or movie scenes, to enhance a sermon. ScreenVue provides access to thousands of movies to choose from.

Obtaining this license also gives the church permission to show scenes from feature films on YouTube as long as the video is uploaded by the copyright owner or someone authorized by the owner to do so.

Pricing depends on activities and congregation size. Annual and event licenses are available.

2) Lifeway Church Movie and Video License

Provides churches licensing for specific movies that are not typically included in the blanket licenses for music and media. You can browse their selection and purchase an Event Kit that provides the necessary permissions for a specific movie and event.


Does the church use image in its bulletins, emails, website, or other church communications? You need licenses to use these images as well. You cannot, for example, use most images found through a Google search without permission. Some companies specialize in creating "web crawlers" that track and investigate illegal image uses based on Google search hits and website owner data. Stay safe and ask permission or use public domain images on sites like the first two websites below. These sites allow users to upload photos for others to use for free, and take precautions to prevent users from downloading others' protected content. Using these sites is not without some risks. While this information is the result of thorough research on this topic, GCFA strongly recommends that you do your due diligence before selecting and using images found on the Internet.

  1. Morguefile

  • This site offers a collection of royalty-free stock photos for commercial use. With images found on this site, you have the right to adapt the work, use the work for commercial purposes, and accompany the photos with other content under the following conditions:

  • You cannot sell, license, sublicense, rent, transfer, or distribute the images exactly as it is without alteration.

  • If you don't alter the image and leave it exactly as it is, you must credit the photographer to use it. (Suggested credit byline: Photo by <photographer's username> at )

  • You may not claim ownership of this image in its original state.

2. Creative Commons

  • This site contains openly licensed works freely available for legal use, sharing, repurposing, and remixing. Millions of people worldwide have made their photos, videos, writing, music, and other creative content available for any member of the public to use as long as the license conditions set by the copyright owner, such as proper attribution, are followed. For a list of the Creative Commons License Options and the limitations associated with each, see here.

3. Shutterstock

  • This subscription-based website allows you to use its content based on the purchased plan. The website offers two Image License options:

  • A Standard Image License grants you the right to use images as a digital reproduction, including on websites, social media, mobile advertising, software, e-publications, email marketing, and online media, including video-sharing services such as YouTube and Vimeo. This license allows you to print in physical forms, such as on letterhead and business cards. It enables you to incorporate images into film, video, or other audiovisual productions for distribution. Please note that this license has limitations on the number of reproductions, impressions, and budget for the project in which it is intended to be used, which you can review in further detail here.

  • An Enhanced Image License grants you the right to use images in any manner permitted under the Standard Image License without any limitation on the number of reproductions, impressions, or budget for the project in which it is intended to be used. The license further grants permission to incorporate images into merchandise you plan to sell or distribute, including in your wall art for commercial space decorative purposes and images in elements of digital templates for sale or distribution.

  • For Shutterstock's complete License Agreement, please see here.

There are other sites, such as and that offer images for free and provide you an opportunity to donate to the artists.

Still confused?

We understand - it is a lot of material and unfortunately the stakes are high! For a small fee, you can engage our copyright services specialty team to help you figure our which license(s) are right for you ministry. If you wish to have our team work for you, simply fill out our Copyright License Questionnaire to begin the process. A valued member of our team will be in touch and get you on the road to copyright peace of mind!

  • Overview of Copyright Law

  • Church Copyright License Options

  • Common Church Copyright Myths

  • Infringement: Did you know?

Disclaimer: While the information provided below may assist a local church with its licensing needs, it is not a substitute for legal advice by an attorney with knowledge of copyright law or the written approval of specific copyright holders. If there is any doubt as to whether a particular use or practice violates copyright laws, the local church should seek the written advice of a lawyer or specific written approval of the particular use by the copyright holder or licensing agent. Similarly, the Licensing Report generated using GFCA's services is simply a recommendation based on GCFA's knowledge of available licensing options and does not constitute legal advice.


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