Church Copyright Licensing Options

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Tuesday, October 12, 2021

We recommend that you thoroughly review our Copyright Guidelines for Churches page first to have an understanding of the U.S. Copyright Law and how it pertains to your church before reviewing the licensing options here. It's important to remember that this shouldn't be considered as legal advice. 

Overview  

There are essential licenses that fit most churches' use of copyrighted materials. However, several supplemental licenses exist that grant permission for more specific services such as rehearsals, live streaming, podcasts, videos, and video clips. As mentioned on our Copyright Guidelines for Churches articles, it is essential to note that if your church obtains permission to use copyrighted material for one activity or exclusive right, it doesn't mean you have permission with that same license for another exclusive right. For example, for musical works, it is essential to remember that you will need a license to both the musical composition (the music notes on the page) and the lyrics. Not all licenses provide permission for both.  

As you will see below, there are basic licensing options available that may grant the necessary permissions to cover all your church's activities and needs. But it is vital that you thoroughly understand all the six exclusive rights – reproduction, adaptation, distribution, performance, display, recording – the license includes and how each right included in the license applies to your church's activities to avoid unintentional copyright infringement. For instance, most basic church licenses do not have permission to livestream; you would need to purchase an additional license on top of the underlying license for consent to livestream copyrighted material. Most licensing companies require purchasing a basic license package before you can obtain the license to livestream.   

Additionally, when a license is purchased, you typically have access to a catalog of songs included in that particular license. You should always confirm that the songs your church wants to use are included with the license before using. If they are not, then the church should obtain written permission directly from the copyright holder.  

One-time use, weekly use, and annual licenses are available. Reporting usage of a song to the licensing company is often a requirement of the license. It is essential to keep good records of the works use to be accurate in your licensing payments and minimize any claims by the copyright holder or its representatives that you have not paid sufficient amounts. 

Options 

Below, we have compiled various licensing options to assist you in meeting the copyright needs of your church. If you find looking through this information too time-consuming or overwhelming, we would be happy to provide you with some recommendations. Please click on the pop-up you see on this page and complete the questionnaire. We will review your church's common uses, recommend licenses that will cover those uses, and provide direction on obtaining the license(s) and any other pertinent information you need to know about them. This service is provided for $250-$350, based on the complexity of your church's needs. Please review the full questionnaire linked to the pop-up for more information on this service and the process.  

  1. CHRISTIAN COPYRIGHT LICENSING, INC.  
    1. Church Copyright License allows for:  
      • Reproduction of song lyrics is found in hymnals, websites, chorus books, and similar publications for use by/for the congregation. This includes electronically storing, retrieving, and utilizing song files on computers, presentation software, and similar resources to enable visual projection of songs.  
      • Distribution of song lyrics in bulletins, liturgies, programs, song sheets, and songbooks compiled by your church. This also includes distributing lyrics by overhead transparencies and slides.  
      • Recording songs in your live worship services, including meditations, preludes, postludes, interludes, fanfares, handbell, and vocal and instrumental specials by either audio or audiovisual means, provided that 1) accompaniment tracks are not reproduced, and permission is obtained directly from the producer, 2) such recordings are for your church and its activities, and the quantity distributed does not exceed 15% of the church size of the license, and 3) to offset the cost of production, you may charge up to a specified amount for each copy duplicated. 
      • It does NOT cover song language translation, selling recordings or lyrics outside of church functions, or streaming and broadcasting.   
      • Currently, song reporting is required to be submitted online once every 2.5 years.  
    2. Streaming and Podcasting License allows for: 
      • Streaming participating songs from your church's proprietary website, a hosted website, or a streaming service.  
      • Live streaming and retransmitting songs performed in your church services in audio and/or video form. 
      • Distributing audio or video files of songs performed in your church services to personal computers, portable media players, or a similar device capable of receiving such files.   
      • Does NOT cover charging a fee or receiving compensation for any of the above permissions, authorize any third-party to stream songs, stream artist or record label recordings of songs, or stream songs at church events where a financial charge, including donations, is required to attend.  
      • Please note that this license is considered an add-on option to the CCLI Church Copyright License, which must also be purchased. Also, there are two licensing options available for streaming, and that the information here is for the basic licenseFor more information on the specifics of both licensing options for streaming, please visit the website. 
    3. Church Rehearsal License allows for:  
      • Streaming commercial audio and/or video recordings with your worship leaders, musicians, and vocalists from your church's website, a hosted website, or a streaming service.  
      • Digitally distributing by downloading recordings such that the audio part is captured, saved, and/or stored on a personal computer or similar device, including distributing them on a CD, flash drive, or similar device.  
      • Does NOT cover things like, but is not limited to, charging a fee for recordings, recording your adaptation of the songs, and retaining copies of recordings for personal use. They are intended as temporary audio reference copies for learning and rehearsing.  
      • Please note that this license is considered an add-on option to the CCLI Church Copyright License, which must also be purchased.
        • For a list of songs included in these CCLI licenses, please see here. 
  2. CHRISTIAN COPYRIGHT SOLUTIONS 
    1. WorshipCast Streaming License allows for: 
      • Streaming live or on-demand performances of copyrighted music, including worship services and special events, from your church website.  
      • This license is not limited to worship service performances but covers concerts, weddings, funerals, youth and holiday arrangements, and studio recordings for worship teams outside the church.  
      • This license does NOT cover downloading music or webcasting of master recordings or accompaniment tracks, which would require additional licensing.  
      • Song usage must be reported if weekly church attendance is over 5,000. 
    2. PERFORMmusic License allows for:  
      • Live and pre-recorded music performance outside of religious services, such as vacation bible school, free concerts, on-hold music, retreats, picnics, graduations, dances, fundraisers, conferences and seminars, and adult and youth group gatherings.  
      • This license does NOT cover streaming or broadcasting the event.  
      • Song usage reporting is not required.
  3. ONE LICENSE 
    1. Reprint License (Annual, Event, or Single-Use) allows for: 
      • Reproduction of, printing, and showing on-screen lyrics and music used by a congregation in a religious service, such as bulletins, programs, worship aid, song sheet, songbook, transparency, or via an electronic storage and retrieval system for projection of words or music or both.  
      • Reproduction does NOT include choir parts, accompaniments, complete scores, and instrumental parts of any kind.  
      • Annual licenses cover consistent usage throughout the year for the church and congregational gatherings hosted or sponsored by the church, such as youth groups, small groups, etc.  
      • Event licenses are available to cover retreats, conventions, and conferences no more than seven days in duration.  
      • Single-Use licenses are available for one-time events, including weddings and funerals. You must purchase a single-use license for each event.  
      • Reporting is required weekly and must be submitted online.  
    2. Limited Podcast Streaming License allows for: 
      • Streaming worship services containing covered songs. Content can be distributed to your organization's website or through other platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Zoom, Vimeo, and Instagram and allows you to stream to members who may be homebound, traveling, or serving in active duty.  
      • It does NOT allow your organization to archive your services until the end of the duration of the license.  
      • Reporting is required weekly and must be submitted online.   
    3. Practice-Track License allows for: 
      • Reproducing and Distributing practice track recordings provided by publishers and CD's or MP3s for choir and ensemble members. 
      • Recording your versions of covered songs for the ensemble.  
      • Does NOT include commercial master recordings for use within live worship service.  

For a complete list of member publishers who participate in the One License options, see here. 

The options below are subscription-based options that grant you the necessary permissions to stream music through its website anywhere publicly. 

  1. Soundtrack Your Brand  
    • Provides your church rights to stream music in an outside venue, such as a rented space for events with a subscription-based plan. The subscription offers both streaming license rights and public performance license rights.  
  2. Pandora For Business 
    • Provides your church rights to stream music in a commercial venue with a subscription-based plan. This is a fully licensed subscription service for businesses with no contract requirements.  

UMC support has a new ministry support service that can help your ministry identify and obtain the appropriate copyright licensing based on your ministry's usage of creative material. 

Still confused? We understand - it is a lot of material ... and unfortunately the stakes are high! For a small fee, you can engage our copyright services specialty team to help you figure our which license(s) are right for you ministry. If you wish to have our team work for you, simply fill out our Copyright License Questionnaire to begin the process. A valued member of our team will be in touch and get you on the road to copyright peace of mind!

Disclaimer: The information provided in these guidelines is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice. In developing the guidelines, certain assumptions have been made about underlying practices and uses of intellectual property. Any change in those assumptions could affect the application of a particular guideline or recommended best practice. Therefore, while the information provided below may assist a local church, it is not a substitute for legal advice by an attorney with knowledge of copyright law or the written approval of specific copyright holders. If there is any doubt as to whether a particular use or practice violates copyright laws, the local church should seek the written advice of a lawyer or specific written approval of the particular use by the copyright holder or licensing agent.  Further, the local church should maintain a copyright file containing all written advice obtained from an attorney(s), all licenses/permissions for works use, and records of any payments made to licensors or owners of copyrighted works.

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