Home Worship Planning Music Resources Copyright 101: Copyright Myth #1

Copyright 101: Copyright Myth #1

Myth 1. We have a CCLI (or other) license.

Counting down the top ten myths, false beliefs, and misperceptions about church music copyright, none of which are true.

Explanation: People generally understand that copyright law prohibits the many practices churches want or need to engage in as part of their ministry: copying music, copying lyrics, making songbooks, making recordings, projecting music and lyrics, webcasting, live streaming, placing services and materials on a website, making and selling videos or recordings, and much more. After decades of court rulings, lawsuits, articles, workshops, lectures, pamphlets, and publicity from groups like Church Music Publishers and ASCAP, people, especially those involved in church music and academia, generally know these things, even if they do not know the specifics and the details of the law.

We must admire the success of Christian Copyright Licensing International (CCLI). Since its founding in 1988, it has grown to become the largest and most successful music licensing agency – serving more churches and covering more music by far than any other licensing agency. The services it (and other licensing companies) offers to churches through its licensing provisions, if followed by churches, allows churches to legally perform many tasks that would take hours, days, and weeks in time and cost a great deal of money to do without the license.

The problem -- and perhaps it is truly a problem rather than a myth -- is that churches want and need to do many tasks not covered by the CCLI license, including selling, recording, copying, projecting, streaming, broadcasting, drama and dance, musicals, music-on-hold, concerts, parties and picnics, youth groups, retreats, after-school child care, and so much more, all involving music. If these activities are not covered by the CCLI license, what is the church to do?

The correct answer is that the church must dedicate people, time, money and a commitment to research how to accomplish these tasks and participate in these activities legally. And that is a monumental challenge for most churches. Unfortunately, many have chosen the path of purchasing a CCLI license, ignoring and remaining ignorant of copyright law, claiming their CCLI license covers any activity they choose, secretly hoping they don’t get caught, and if they do, that their claim of “We just didn’t know….” will keep them from embarrassment and punishment. The truth is that there are many more needs of the local church around copyright that ARE NOT covered by the CCLI license than ARE covered.

For more information, see the "Copyright & Licensing" area of the Discipleship Ministries website.

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