Copyright Information, Clearing up the Confusion

Churches are constantly navigating the copyright maze when they use music, other print resources, and videos. Each medium has slightly different laws regulating it.

Here is some information to help you with copyright. If this still doesn’t answer your question, contact the publisher directly. The publisher’s contact information is usually on their website.

Music Copyright Information

To assist you in the area of music copyrights, here are three steps:

  1. If your church has a CCLI license, check with them to see if your song is covered. Go to the CCLI website at ccli.com –scroll down on the right hand side of the page to Support Center >Song Search. If your church has a onelicense.net license you can also check One License at www.onelicense.net by doing a song search or check the ‘Current Member Publishers” list. Another church licensing organization that you can belong to for music use is Licensingonline, www.licensingonline.org.
  2. If you still can’t find it, you will need to contact the copyright holder directly. Contact information is in the copyright holder’s index that can be found in the back of the hymnal, online, or on the bottom of the printed page of music.
  3. It is important to put the correct copyright/licensing information on each song/slide, etc. *See the example below for correct formatting and needed information*. Then be sure to follow the copyright licensing guidelines for reporting which are specific to each company (CCLI, OneLicense and LicenSing).

*Here is an example of the layout of a song with a correct credit line:

 “Hallelujah” (title)

Song lyrics…

Words and music by John Doe
© 2000 Good Music Co.
CCLI License #______________ [or One License #____________]

NOTE: The correct credits and License # must appear at least ONCE per song somewhere on the page or slide (top, bottom, or title slide).

Hymnal clarification:

Hymnals are published by publishing companies, (i.e., Faith Alive Christian Resources, Hope Publishing, etc.), but that does not mean that all of the songs are owned by that company. Each song is a separate entity and is owned as such.

You must consult the information at the bottom of each song for ownership details. The information behind the copyright symbol © will tell you who you need to contact for permission.

Here is a list of what you can and cannot do from the CCLI website (always contact ccli.com for the latest updates and guidelines):

What You Can Do (What the License covers)

  • Print songs, hymns and lyrics in bulletins, programs, liturgies and song sheets for use in congregational singing.
  • Create your own customized songbooks or hymnals for use in congregational singing.
  • Download a song onto your computer to use for worship
  • Create power point presentations, slides, or use any other format whereby songs are visually projected (such as computer graphics and projection) for use in congregational singing.
  • Arrange, print and copy your own vocal or instrumental arrangements of songs for congregational use, where no published version is available.
  • Translate for use only with your congregation if there is no translation available
  • Record your worship services by audio or video means provided you only record "live" music (instrumental and vocal). Pre-recorded accompaniment tracks cannot be reproduced. You may also charge up to $4.00 (U.S.) / $5.00 (CAN) each for audio tapes and CDs, and $12.00 (U.S.) / $15.00 (CAN) each for video tapes and DVDs.
  • The quantity of recorded copies allowed per service cannot exceed 15% of the maximum number of your church size category.

What You Cannot Do (What the License does not cover)

  • Photocopy or duplicate octavos, cantatas, musicals, hand bell music, keyboard arrangements, vocal scores, orchestrations or other instrumental works.
  • Rent, sell, lend, or distribute copies made under the Church Copyright License to individuals or groups outside the church, or to other churches. However, you may distribute tapes to shut-ins, missionaries, or others outside the church.
  • Assign or transfer the Church Copyright License to any other church or group without CCLI's approval.

*There are 50 TOP FAQ’s answered at www.ccli.com (click on Support). It’s an excellent source of up-to-date information.

These guidelines make music available for us to use, but we need to follow them correctly. Remember that this is only for those songs covered by these licenses. Most of the hymns and songs we use in worship today are covered by one of the three copyright licenses. There will also be music that is public domain (P.D.) which you can use any time. And there is the occasional song that is copyrighted and not covered by these licenses that you may not use unless you contact the copyright holder.

Video Copyright Information

For information about using videos and DVD’s or parts thereof, contact Christian Video Licensing International (www.cvli.com), or Audio Cine Films, Inc. (Canada) (www.acf-film.com).

A video copyright license is essential even if:

  • Films are shown freely, for educational purposes or to small groups
  • Films are shown partially during sermons.
  • Films are obtained from private collections, purchased, leased or brought in by members.
  • Note: Audio Cine Films, Inc, in Canada has exclusive rights to many studios and films. Licenses obtained from other vendors in the United States may be invalid in Canada for some studios and films.
  • Generally, a video or public performance VHS/DVD Copyright License allows a church to:
    • Use films to illustrate points in sermons
    • Show movies for youth groups and daycare
    • Use clips or movies for Sunday School groups, camps, retreats and conferences
    • Show movies for after school programs.

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