Copyright Concerns

The Copyright Compliance Report Card

Take 5 minutes to get your grade with the online Copyright Report Card first, which answers questions about legal use of copyrighted material and how to utilize church blanket licenses.

Learn more about church copyright issues from the Church Copyright Toolkit.

Sharing Printed Music

  • The Church Copyright License from CCLI covers copying activities that assist with congregational singing, including computer projections, songsheets, bulletin inserts, recording your service, and more. It does not, however, include sharing audio files recorded by someone else and sharing published chord charts or sheet music. To legally share published chord charts or sheet music, you need a separate license.
  • SongSelect by CCLI provides transposable chord sheets, lead sheets, and vocal sheets, plus lyrics and audio samples for top CCLI songs. SongSelect is an annual subscription with different tiers which provides different types of files. The SongSelect Integration makes it easy to import files included in your SongSelect subscription.
  • PraiseCharts provides many types of files for print and audio. Purchase each file separately, and many print files allow you to share that file with five people before you need to buy more licenses. The PraiseCharts Integration makes it easy to import files purchased from PraiseCharts.

Performance Licensing

Music performance rights represent a fairly simple concept, but one that is often misunderstood. Part of the confusion may come from the fact that “public performance” is just one of six exclusive rights controlled by a song owner. For example, the performance right is different than the right to copy or reproduce a song on your own recording, and the required licenses for these two rights are quite different.

Here’s a brief definitions to help lay the groundwork for understanding performance licensing. First, the legal definition of a public performance is:

An instance of music being performed “in a place open to the public or at any place where a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances is gathered.”

A performance license grants permission to have these public performances, whether it is a live performance or playing of pre-recorded music.

Christian Copyright Solutions partners with ASCAP, BMI and SESAC (U.S. performance rights organizations) to provide churches with a one-stop performance license: WORSHIPcast Streaming License (online websites) and PERFORMmusic Premise License (onsite facilities) with comprehensive coverage for 20 million songs, Christian, holiday and secular music.

Summary Please?

Almosts all churches need Church Copyright License from CCLI, even if just to show lyrics to your congregation.

If you want to share audio with your team for rehearsal purposes, you probably need The Church Rehearsal License by CCLI.

Print music is more complicated. SongSelect by CCLI is a subscription with tons of songs, but there is only one master version of each song. PraiseCharts’ songs have different arrangements of each song, but you purchase each file separately. You can choose the best option for you, or you can even use them both.

If you play copyrighted audio publicly, or perform music anywhere outside of worship services, you probably need the PERFORMmusic Premise License from CCS.

If you want to stream music from your service on the internet, you probably need the WORSHIPcast Streaming License from CCS.

Related Information

The information provided in this article is provided to include most copyright info in one place, and should not be used for definitive legal information. Please see the following sites for legal information and for other licenses they offer

Become an Expert

Copyright issues can be complex, confusing and overwhelming for church and ministry leaders, but here’s a great resource you can download for free at The Copyright Coach by CCS: Solve the Puzzle of Copyrights: Six Keys to Learning How to Do Music Right.  Based on 30 years of experience teaching and helping churches with copyright compliance, the eBook is written by Susan Fontaine Godwin, CCS’s founder/CVO. She is also an adjunct professor at the University of Mobile, where she teaches “Survey of Copyrights and Intellectual Property Law” within the Worship Leadership program.