Choosing the right license for church music is a big task. There are many licenses to choose from, and CCLI licensing can seem complicated at first glance. However, with a little help from this article, you’ll be well on your way to choosing the perfect license for your needs!
The Old Way
For older churches, there seemed to be much less to worry about. You could buy hymn books, play and sing songs, photocopy to your heart’s desire, and nobody seemed to mind. Whether it was actually 100% legal or not is another matter!
With many modern church songs now protected by copyright, and with churches including Multitracks and other recorded material during their services, licensing is an important issue.
Add in the complications caused by streaming services online, and it’s even worse!
Furthermore, churches will also need a licence for photocopying protected material (such as lyrics) and for displaying the words to a song on a projector screen or TV.
Not every church will need to be covered for everything – but many churches don’t know where to start and can end up acting illegally or overpaying for licences they’ll never need.
Let’s see if we can offer some clarity.
Enter the CCLI
The CCLI (Christian Copyright Licensing International) is a company that specializes in providing licences for churches around the world.
Its goal? To provide church music licensing for anyone who needs it; whether you’re an individual, a company, or a congregation.
This article will focus on the CCLI Licensing Programme – but there are other options available too such as PPLUK which focuses more specifically on music licences. CCLI offers a broader scope of licences that may be more suitable for the activities of a church.
If Your Church Performs Live Music
The timing of the performance is important! If your church only performs live music during a service, a licence is not needed – “Acts of Worship” are exempt.
However, if socials or outreach events are on your calendar, you need the PRS for Music Licence (https://uk.ccli.com/copyright-licences/playing-music-licence-manual/) which covers live performances on church premises. Do be aware that if you have more than 6 events per year, and church halls (separate from the main church building) may need to be covered individually.
If Your Church Plays Prerecorded Music
If you play music from CD or via MP3/streaming services like Spotify or Apple Music, you’ll need the PPL Church Licence (https://uk.ccli.com/copyright-licences/#ppl).
If Your Church Performs And Streams Music
The CCLI Streaming License, which allows streaming of songs and lyrics on your website or YouTube channel, is the best option for you if your church posts performances online.
The Streaming Plus Licence adds in cover for Master Recording and Multitracks which are used to enhance the professional backing for singers and bands. A full checklist can be found here https://uk.ccli.com/streaming/.
If Your Church Photocopies Copyrighted Material
The Music Reproduction Licence (https://uk.ccli.com/music-reproduction-licence-terms-of-agreement/) covers churches when producing copies of typeset sheet music. Even if the songs are no longer under copyright, there’s a good chance that the documents are – typography retains separate copyright to the content it displays.
It also covers sharing digital files with members of your church band or choir.
Photocopying other material, such as magazines, children’s activity books, study books, and so on, is covered by the CLA (Copyright Licensing Agency) Church Licence (https://uk.ccli.com/copyright-licences/cla-church-licence-manual/).
If Your Church Displays Lyrics on a Screen
The CCLI Church Copyright Licence (https://uk.ccli.com/copyright-licence-terms-of-agreement/) is perfect for churches that display lyrics on a screen or print their own copies of words and music to songs. The licence also allows for services to be recorded for the benefit of those who cannot attend in person – however, it DOES NOT cover livestreaming or uploads to YouTube etc.
If Your Church Shows Other Media on a Screen
If you want to shows clips from movies during a service to illustrate a point (or for any other reason) you will need the Church Video Licence (https://uk.ccli.com/what-we-provide/church-video-licence-screenvue/)
With the additional PRS for Music Church Licence (https://uk.ccli.com/copyright-licences/playing-music-licence-manual/), you’ll be able to show a variety of films outside of a traditional service.
A further service, ScreenVue Vault (part of the Church Video Licence), gives instant access to complete films that you can show. These range from independent films to Hollywood Blockbusters.
To show live TV, you’ll need the Church Video Licence, PRS for Music Licence, and a PPL Church Licence (https://uk.ccli.com/copyright-licences/playing-music-licence-manual/). And of course, a TV licence!
For most church licences, the pricing is based on how many people regularly attend your church.
For example, the annual Church Video Licence starts at £84 per year for churches with 1-14 members but rises to £876 for churches with more than 5000 attendees.
The most current and up to date prices are always available on the CCLI website, and options are available for individual events where necessary. Full details of all church licences can be found here – https://uk.ccli.com/copyright-licences/#church-licences – and by now, you’ll know what you need for your church!