Church Service Music Copyright License Information

Disclaimer: Research for yourself the legal aspects of what’s posted here. This is for general church copyright license information and copyright law changes.

QUICK READ:

  • Performing music in regularly scheduled church worship services is exempt from copyright fees and licenses. Note: This does NOT include recordings or printing, only performance during regularly scheduled worship service.
  • Printing Lyrics in Service Bulletins – Get a CCLI.com account
  • BMI License – No need for worship services, regular service exempt.
  • Recording Music CD’s or Church Services – Churchca.com
  • Presbyterian Church USA Copyright Information Page
  • PERFORMING MUSIC IN CHURCH SERVICES

    Music performed in church services is exempt from copyright license and royalties. In other words, you can perform what you want during church services. This only applies to the regularly scheduled church service and does not apply to any special concerts, presentations or ticketed events.

    From PCUSA.org – For churches, the majority of questions involve copying music from hymnals or sheet music and taping services for shut-ins. The Religious Services Exemption contained in the U.S. copyright law exempts from copyright infringement performance of nondramatic literary or musical works or of dramatico-musical works of a religious nature, in the course of services at a place of worship or other religious assembly. This exemption does not extend to copying the music or to audio or video taping of the performance.

    PRINTING LYRICS OR PROJECTING LYRICS

    You need permission to print song lyrics in your bulletin or to project them on a screen. CCLI.com provides clearance for a large catalog of Christian praise music. They only provide clearance for printing lyrics in bulletings or screen projection of lyrics. They do NOT cover selling recorded copies of the church service. Current fees for congregations up to 250 attendance is under $300 per year. I use this service at my church. Their website is setup well with easy access to lyrics, audio samples and sheet music you can transpose to different keys and print online. They cover mainly contemporary worship music but also have lyrics to many traditional gospel and hymn type songs. I highly recommend CCLI for any music director performing contemporary Christian worship music in their service.

    CHURCH ONLINE PODCASTS AND CD RECORDINGS

    The Church Copyright Administration at http://www.churchca.com is a new partnership with BMI. They charge a monthly or yearly administration fee (starting at $100 per month) to administer rights for podcasts and CD recordings. They have a tiered membership plan depending on your podcast and recording activity. My understanding is the yearly fee only covers administration. From your online member panel you fill in the songs you want to record or podcast, then CCA will find out the copyright and license payment info for you and bill accordingly. This was launched in October 2006 and time will tell how successful this partnership with BMI is. Currently at BMI.com there is no classification for a church license. Their referral is to the CCA site listed above. My understanding is that CCA only covers recordings because according to copyright law there is no BMI fees needed for regular church services (regular scheduled worship services are excluded from copyright payments, ie: free to perform).

    COPYRIGHT FAIR USE ACT
    Portions of a work may be copied if used in the course of teaching or instruction. There is no set number of seconds or lines that is designated as a definitive “fair use”. It is a matter the courts would decide, not the US Copyright Office, as to whether a piece was used as a small part of a greater whole for the purpose of education. Visit the US Copyright Fair Use page. Practicial church application of this would be using a small audio sample, portion of lyrics or photo in the course of a larger educational presentation.
    RELATED COPYRIGHT ARTICLES and WEBSITES

  • BMI and CCA Partnership
  • Church Music Publishers Association
  • United States Copyright Office
  • Augsburg Fortress Copyrights and Permissions
  • Motion Picture Licensing Corporation
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