May 22, 2020

Publisher’s blog: Livestream permissions in the wake of COVID-19

By now many of you have seen the announcement of OCP’s decision to offer free permission for livestreaming OCP-owned, administered and published copyrights to parishes that have purchased our missals and hymnals. Please allow me to provide some context and background.

Due to the COVID-19 crisis, churches were closed and public Masses canceled from mid-March to beyond Easter Sunday. Now, some dioceses are opening up and allowing in-person liturgies; but in many, the parishes are required to remove all pew resources. Parishes that invested in our books suddenly find themselves unable to use them, and, in order to livestream Mass, must purchase an additional license. At a time when parish budgets have been devastated, this additional cost appears to some as not only an impossible burden, but an unjust one as well.

Through no fault of their own, parishes lost access to the books they purchased. Through no fault of their own, they are forced to livestream Mass, and thereby incur the burden of the license. The license, of course, is required, and, in ordinary times, there would be no question about paying the fee. These are not ordinary times. This permission allows them to use the music they already paid for, albeit in a new and unexpected format.

We stand with our parish partners that are struggling simply to continue their liturgical ministry, the public worship of God. Since they have already invested in the music, and composers have already been paid royalties on the sale of the pew books, we feel that permission to livestream is justified.

Parishes that are not in desperate circumstances (e.g., those with a higher rate of online giving) are encouraged to purchase the proper licenses through ONE LICENSE. That will lessen the overall impact on royalties. This special offer is intended to be an act of mercy for those communities that are truly unable to do so.

While there appears to be a lost opportunity for the composers, we believe this is in the long-term best interest for our composers, since the temporary loss of licensing royalties is less than what composers would lose due to missal and hymnal cancelations.

In fact, many composers have expressed support for this decision:

“As one of your composers who will be losing some royalties from OCP's foregoing licensing revenue from parishes forced to livestream Masses until the end of the year, I'm writing in support of OCP's decision.”

“I really appreciate your thoughtful message regarding live-streaming permissions. You are navigating the rough, unfamiliar waters in which we all find ourselves, and doing so with gracious care for the Church we love and serve. I am proud to be an OCP composer.”

Let us all pause here and remember this: in the midst of this terrible crisis, we are all losing something; we are all asked to make sacrifices: publishers, composers, parishes, license administrators. That’s what good people do—that’s what Christians do—in times like this. We give, and we give things up, out of love for the other, and for the common good.

In the face of a once-every-hundred-years global pandemic, we believe that an act of kindness and generosity is in order, rather than an exacting compliance. We are already hearing back from our parish partners with notes of heartfelt gratitude. Our generosity to them means continued use of and love for our composers’ music; so, really, it’s an investment in future royalties. Our generosity is also in line with the US bishops (USCCB), who have given free permission for livestreaming of the readings, as well as the psalms, Order of Mass, etc. They, too, are forgoing potential royalties in order to aid a wounded Church.

Keep in mind that the permissions have strict limitations: parishes must have our books in the pew and must sign agreements abiding by the terms and conditions; the offer ends with this liturgical year. Next year, parishes will need to purchase new pew books and a license to continue streaming. That is what we will encourage and require. Our hope and belief is that parishes that have benefited from this grace period will have recovered enough by December to acquire the licenses they need.

OCP is a not-for-profit publisher whose mission is to serve the Catholic Church. Our beloved Church is suffering at this time, and we feel compelled, by the call that God has put on us, to be as charitable as possible. We believe it is the right and just thing to do, under these extraordinary circumstances.

Wade Wisler
Wade Wisler

Wade Wisler currently serves as the Publisher and CEO of OCP. In his 20 years at OCP, he has held the roles of Copywriter, Worship Publications Manager and Director of Music Development and Outreach, among others. Wade's background as a musician and a Spanish speaker have been essential in virtually every one of these roles, and his devotion to the Catholic Church is evident in all aspects of his life.