What is this web page all about then?

We are trying to answer this simple question:

Are we allowed to play YouTube videos in Church?

If you want the short answer: no. But read on to find out why and what the many better alternatives are…

What’s the small print… Do YouTube’s terms and conditions allow us to play video in Church?

In short, no. Here are part of the terms as of Feb 2017

you agree not to access Content or any reason other than your personal, non-commercial use solely as intended through and permitted by the normal functionality of the Service, and solely for Streaming. "Streaming" means a contemporaneous digital transmission of the material by YouTube via the Internet to a user operated Internet enabled device in such a manner that the data is intended for real-time viewing and not intended to be downloaded (either permanently or temporarily), copied, stored, or redistributed by the user.
YouTube Terms 5.1 section L

They say:

  1. you agree not to access Content or any reason other than your personal, non-commercial use solely as intended through and permitted by the normal functionality of the Service, and solely for Streaming.
  2. You can read these terms yourself, they are nice and short! Pop over to YouTube and click the little Terms link at the very bottom of the page.
  3. So, as a church service is (usually) a public service and definitely not a personal activity then the YouTube license does not allow playing of videos in church services.

2019 Update!

YouTube terms were updated in Summer 2019, the section on Permissions now says:

You are not allowed to:
9. use the Service to view or listen to Content other than for personal, non-commercial use (for example, you may not publicly screen videos or stream music from the Service);

Here’s a screenshot of the section:

YouTube terms for personal use

YouTube terms for personal use

So, YouTube still only allow playing of videos for your own personal use.

How about the copyright people, the CCLI, what do they have to say?

CCLI is the Christian Copyright and Licensing organisation. Churches in the UK and elsewhere will pay CCLI for a license that enables a church to use media – eg projecting song lyrics requires a license.

Here us what CCLI say on their website regarding streaming video from YouTube:

We recommend that you obtain direct permission from the owner of the video. YouTube's terms state their site is for private use only.
CCLI’s recommendation on using video from YouTube

We recommend that you obtain direct permission from the owner of the video. YouTube’s terms state their site is for private use only.

I also emailed them, and they added:
“We always advise that churches use caution when using sites like YouTube, as a lot of the content has been put on the site without the copyright owners permission. It is certainly not something that CCLI could cover your church to do.” October 2013

What else is wrong with videos on YouTube?

YouTube is very popular and it’s great for watching videos on a computer yourself – it is not great in any way for playing videos on a projector screen to an audience because:

  • It relies on the Internet working – you need to be able to stream the video, if your internet stops working part way through the service then you are stuffed – you really want to be able to download a video file and play that.
  • No way to download a video file (see above)
  • Going full screen, and pressing play on the web page is cumbersome and distracting – your audience will see your franticly trying to find the play button whilst they wait for the video to be played.
  • Questionable quality – The quality of the video and the audio may be poor – low resolution. This will not make it enjoyable to watch.
  • Questionable legality – anyone can upload any video – the video you play may already be breaking copyright laws.
  • Adverts – there may well be adverts at the beginning of the video – do you really want to be playing those in church?
  • May be subject to copyright – the video you have found on YouTube may well be a commercially available video that you can purchase for a few pounds from the actual maker of the video or a website that sells video legitimately. Playing the video without paying for it means the person who made is is missing out on getting paid.
  • Yes, you can use other ‘tools’ to download videos from YouTube, but this also breaks the Terms of YouTube.

OK, help us out… What is the best way of playing videos in Church then?

Things will vary from church to church, but here is a good starting point:

  • The video desk operator needs a video file, either on a USB stick or emailed a file or a link to where it can be downloaded.
  • The video file would be a .mpg, .mp4, .wmv, .mov etc.
  • Ideally the video should be 720p in resolution (1280×720). Anything lower than 720×576 will look bad
  • The sound should be good – if there is spoken works, then this should be clear
  • The Church should have a budget for purchasing videos – most videos are not free, many are, but professionals do make video clips for churches and they need to be paid for.


So, if not YouTube where else can we get video?

Playing videos in services is great – we should do it more!

  • Look for links or info on the YouTube video page, the producer may have a link to download the video etc.
  • Contact the person on YouTube who made the video and ask for permission and a copy of the video file.
  • Purchase a video (see below)
  • Look on other sites (see below)
  • Make a video yourself, or ask someone else to.

vimeo.com – similar to YouYube, but often the  producer allows the video to be downloaded, you’ll see a download button, check description/license too..

See the Links Directory for lots of other sites to get free videos and images, and to pay for videos and images.

Want to support Christian artists!

You keep mentioning Vimeo, why?

Vimeo is nice – people share their videos on vimeo – some can share for free, some people pay Vimeo to host their videos.

Vimeo make it possible to DOWNLOAD the video files if the person who owns the video allows it – usually people to allow downloads.

There is no cost to download videos!

Often, people will put videos on BOTH YouTube and Vimeo, so search Vimeo for it there too.


Good on you!

Sure you can upload it to YouTube, but if you want people to actually use your video in services without breaking the YouTube terms and conditions then make it available to download elsewhere, eg:

Vimeo.com – offer free hosting of video

Make sure that your add information in your video description on YouTube about where people can download your videos from.

Links Directory

Here are some helpful links to websites which offer media that can be used in church services.

Please note – these should be ‘safe’ to visit, but they are not all ‘christian’ web sites, so as usual, be careful!

You may suggest new links.

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