From: Rebecca Goldsmith
Subject: RE: Common Worship copyright enquiry
Date: 8 November 2010 14:58:12 GMT
To: Jonathan Hagger>>
My sincere apologies for the lengthy delay. Unfortunately, I am also responsible for part of the production of the Church of England Year Book, as well as Church House copyright. With General Synod elections this year, completing the Year Book became priority to the detriment of my other work. Again, my apologies.

We are grateful for your willingness to seek permission. I hope you will allow me the opportunity to explain the issue from a CH perspective. Church House Publishing controls the rights to Common Worship material, which we try and make available for Church and congregational use as easily as possible. However, in order to protect the work of the Archbishops' Council publishing and in order to fund the future publishing work of the Archbishops' Council, we charge people to quote from and reuse our material in other publications. Usually, I may stress, in academic settings. However, we do limit the amount of material that people can reuse as we feel we already do our utmost to make our material available under our own terms. Therefore, we feel to allow you to produce material everyday at no cost would undermine the precedent we set with our other clients.

Furthermore, as I am sure you are aware, we do have a daily prayer feed which we allow people to use on their own websites. ( ) As part of this work, we feel we are able to grant you permission to broadcast audio files of Common Worship material, at no cost, as we recognize that - although virtual - this online community constitutes your congregational use. However, as we already produce an online feed of daily prayer we do not feel we can grant you permission to republish this textual material online everyday. Furthermore, not all material published in Common Worship is owned by the Archbishops' Council. As you will see from the Acknowledgment section, a substantial amount of CW material is owned by third parties and as such we are not in a position to grant unfettered access to publish material daily online.

We are happy to support you where possible, and if you would like to publish audio files we are happy to grant non-exclusive permission for this use. We would also encourage you to use the daily prayer feed as supplied if you feel this would be helpful. If you do wish to publish further collects, etc, which are not included in daily prayer sporadically or on special occasions, I am sure we can arrange permission for that as and when.

I am sorry for any disappointment this causes but I hope you can understand that we cannot grant unfettered access to some whilst charging and restricting others.



COMMENT: In many ways the above is extremely fair and accommodating. But in many ways it is also very wrong indeed. The liturgy of the Church is a church project, not the work of somebody, for example the prayer writer, David Adam, who is publishing his work partly to make money for himself (something, considering the meagre wages Church of England priests receive I thoroughly endorse) . The Church says that its liturgy is a mission tool, and I think this can truly be the case. The Church also pays lip service to the claim that the Internet should be a place for Christian mission. Surely, they could come up with a protocol that is a lot more helpful to mission than the above. I have to pay for the right to podcast music. Couldn't a reasonably priced licence be made available to allow the posting of text "belonging" to the church?



  1. I used it today over at St. Laika’s, Dennis. As I haven’t been using Common Worship because I have been waiting for permission to do so, nothing will change. It’s just annoying when you do the right thing and hit a brick wall. No wonder, so much is posted illegally on the Net.

  2. Controlling official liturgical texts is an issue for which there is probably no simple answer. The American Book of Common Prayer was under copyright as long as it was a “Draft Proposed” book and then a “Proposed” book, but when it was finally adopted in 1979 the copyright was released, as has always been the case with TEC’s BCP. Some other texts, like our Book of Occasional Services, are under copyright but parishes can reproduce them for their own liturgical, non-commercial use. The New Zealand Prayer Book is under copyright, period. (Too bad; there’s lots of good stuff in it.)

    The best source for Anglican liturgical texts that are in the public domain is Anglicans Online:
    Another very important source is Charles Wohlers’ site,
    He also has links to Common Worship, that can probably be used at least as links. However, he also includes a link to Church Publishing House’s A Brief Guide to Liturgical Copyright
    It’s not clear to me that Rebecca Goldsmith’s letter to you agrees with CPH’s official statement about the use of copyright texts.

  3. The copy-write situation is sort of ugly for music too. There is an English hymn writer who has a song about Julian of Norwich. I would love to play it but it is under international copy protection and even though I have a good transcription of the music for my dulcimer, I cannot legally use it as most US churches are not ASCAP venues and do not pay for performance use.

    I might be able to negotiate a direct use agreement but we are talking a folk instrument here and worse yet one that is modal. Which means if I play it in public, no way I can assure no one will pick it up.

    Incidentally if there is something you need, I might be able to cut you a file you could use on St. Liaka’s. If we have something in public domain or under one of your licenses, I should be protected.