Today’s guest post is by Susan Fontaine Godwin, founder and president of Christian Copyright Solutions—a leading authority on church-music copyrights. She is frequently featured in Christian magazines, where she equips teams and churches to honor copyright law and use the best materials available for their worship.
When it comes to copyright solutions, churches are fortunate to have several blanket licenses that help simplify legal use of copyrighted materials. It may not seem like a blessing at times, but if there were no blanket licenses, you would have to obtain individual licenses for each use of a song, for example, from each song publisher. This can be an extremely time consuming, costly, and frustrating process.
That’s the beauty of annual blanket licenses. They are the most simple and affordable solutions for church copyright compliance, because you pay one annual fee in order to use a particular group of copyrights in specific ways.
Several blanket licenses have been created to meet the needs of churches and ministries. Here is a list of the best known of these, categorized according to their primary purpose:
Church Performance Licensing
• CCS PERFORMmusic license
• CCS WORSHIPcast license
• CCLI Church Streaming and Podcast License
• CCLI Church Copyright License
Church Rehearsal Licensing
• CCLI Church Rehearsal License
• Church Video Licence (CVLI)
But there is confusion when it comes to licenses, and many churches hope that one blanket license is all they need for all of their activities. Unfortunately, that is seldom the case. However, the various blanket licenses provide a mosaic of coverage with very little overlap between blanket-copyright types and rights.
Church leaders are often confused about what blanket licenses do and do not cover. You can learn more details about available blanket licenses by downloading this free fact sheet. It’s important to fully utilize these licenses, as they are a very simple and immediate solution for many licensing needs. It’s equally important to understand the scope of each license’s coverage: what is and is NOT covered.
With a solid understanding of copyrights, you can identify what type of copyright (music, sound recording, video, etc.) that you need a license for, and what type of exclusive right you need. There are three key elements you must consider when analyzing coverage of each blanket license:
- Type of copyrights: music, sound recording, or audiovisual
- Type of rights: performance, reproduction, or distribution
- Catalog of copyrights: specific group or catalog of songs
For example, if you want to play or perform songs outside your religious service, then you will need a performance license (type of right) for music (type of copyright). You will then need to determine what group of songs you want to play or perform. Performance-rights organizations, such as ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC, cover all types of music with about 17 million songs in their combined catalogs. CCS’s PERFORMmusic and WORSHIPcast licenses include all the songs from ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC. The annual fees for both PERFORMmusic and WORSHIPcast are based on the tier size of your congregation.
What licenses do most churches need?
For most churches in the US, blanket licenses for duplication (or reproduction) rights and performance rights are the most simple and economical way to remain copyright compliant. To cover the basic needs of most churches in the area of copyright compliance, churches usually require a PERFORMmusic license for performance rights and a CCLI church license for some reproduction or duplication rights. Then if you also want to stream your music performances on the Internet, you can add either CCS’s WORSHIPcast Internet Streaming or the CCLI Streaming and Podcasting License.
In addition, many churches make rehearsal copies of songs for their singers and musicians. This involves duplicating or making copies of an audio-recording song track, whether a CD or MP3 file, to give to praise-team members. Here are the key elements involved:
- Type of copyright: sound recording and music
- Type of right: reproduction and making copies
- Group of copyrights: the record label and music publisher
The CCLI Church Rehearsal License allows worship leaders and church music directors to legally copy commercial audio recordings and share audio files via email, on flash drives, or on worship-planning websites. Over 100 record labels are included in the program. The copies are intended for rehearsal purposes only, and they are not intended to remain as permanent copies for personal collections. Annual pricing is based on your church’s congregation size.
What songs are covered by CCLI and CCS?
There is often confusion about what specific groups of copyrights (like songs) are covered by CCS and CCLI. CCS’s WORSHIPcast and PERFORMmusic licenses include all 300,000 songs in CCLI’s catalog, plus an additional 17 million from ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC. How does that work? Any songwriter or publisher who wants their songs to be eligible to collect performance royalties will register with one of the three performance-rights organizations (PROs): ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC. If they are Christian songwriters and publishers, they probably also include their songs in the CCLI program. In most cases, churches need both CCS and CCLI licenses.
To learn more about which blanket licenses best fit your copyright needs, you can download our free Church Copyright Guide. You can also take the online interactive Copyright Compliance Report Card to help evaluate how your church is doing, and help you find licensing solutions or policy changes to consider.
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