Copyright information for churches who show videos and DVDs

Copyright information for churches who show videos and DVDs

How can I legally show videos and DVDs for church activities?

Videos do not automatically come with a public performance right, no matter their source.  Full length feature films (the kinds that can be borrowed from a movie store for home use) do not come with public performance rights.  If you are showing these movies or any portion of them in your church, you will need to purchase an umbrella license.


Information from the Christian Video Licensing International Web Site (


Churches use video in a variety of ways
More and more churches, Sunday School classes, and youth groups are finding innovative ways to include video into their services and programs. Many pastors now use movie scenes to illustrate a sermon point or topic.

Permission required
Pre-recorded DVDs or videos (commonly available in retail or rental stores or online) are intended for personal, home use only. They generally do not carry licenses for public showings.


Viewing outside the home requires a license granting specific authorization. This is the case for each organization that uses videos—even for nonprofit groups, even if admission is not being charged, and even if the video has been purchased.


The Copyright Act of 1976 gives copyright owners almost total control of the use of their copyrighted works, including the right to perform films and videocassettes. By law, pre-recorded videocassettes and videodiscs are for home use only, unless you have permission to show them in public. Without permission, you may be in violation of the Copyright Act and subject to substantial penalties.

Permission granted
Churches and other ministry organizations can show videos and be in accordance with the U.S. Copyright Act by using one of the following methods:

  1. Showing videos which have "Public Performance Rights,"
  2. Receiving written permission prior to using the video, or
  3. Obtaining coverage with the Church Video License

For information on obtaining public performance rights go to or call 1-888-771-2854. 


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