We hear lots of interesting questions about copyright law and the coverage we provide – after all, CCLI provides copyright coverage for over 160,000 churches across North America, and over 250,000 churches, schools and ministries around the world.
Here are the 5 five topics we get asked about the most:
- the copyright notice on projections and prints
- reporting your copy activity
- changing lyrics
- showing YouTube videos in church
- streaming church services on social media
1. The Copyright Notice on Projections and Prints
Part of the agreement for our license is that your church includes the copyright information on each printed or projected song copy. For a song projection with multiple slides, the information only has to appear once, and is usually placed at the beginning or end. Here is an example of the necessary information:
“Hallelujah” words and music by John Doe
© 2018 Good Music Co.
Used by Permission. CCLI License #12345
Note that the number at the bottom (#12345 in the example) should be your church’s license number, not the song’s CCLI ID number.
2. Reporting Your Copy Activity
Another part of our license agreement is that your church will report your copy activity for a period of six months when it’s your turn. Every church takes a turn once every 2.5 years. You will be notified in advance by email and by mail. Reporting is done on our reporting website, and it only takes a few minutes if you update it regularly.
We’re often asked if the reporting function on worship planning websites like Planning Center is sufficient. Unfortunately, no. It’s a great tool to collect your song lists each week, but we need a bit more detail for each song—specifically the type(s) of copy activity: digital, print, recording and translation.
The CCLI reporting process is vitally important: it’s how we can accurately and fairly distribute the royalty revenue to the song owners. So the beauty of reporting is that you get to bless the songwriters whose songs have blessed your ministry. We hear stories from many songwriters, like this one from Jason Whitehorn:
“We had a medical bill that came at a time we had not planned for… got a sweet check in the mail that God had planned for when He helped me write a song, He helped CCLI take loving care for the administration of it… and had your churches care to sing it and report its use. I cherished that check and the provision.”
3. Changing Lyrics
Here’s another question we’re starting to hear more and more: Can I change song lyrics to fit our church’s preferences or theology? The answer is no—not without permission from the song owner. One of the exclusive rights of a copyright owner is derivative works, so any changes must have the owner’s permission.
Keep in mind that you are free to arrange songs as you wish, as long as it doesn’t change the melody, lyrics or fundamental character of a song. For example, you may want to start with the chorus, or even the bridge—if it fits the flow of your worship set. That’s fine. Maybe you don’t want to sing all the verses of a song, or maybe one of the verses has lyrics that you find objectionable. Feel free to skip verses. Just don’t change the lyrics.
We never cease to be amazed, however, at the ingenuity of some churches regarding this issue. Here’s one of our favorite “work-arounds” that we’ve ever heard. One of our churches asked,
“So I am new to this whole worship leading thing and I know there’s a lot of talk on here about copyright laws and stuff. …We have a guy who plays the ram’s horn. I could have him blow it really loud every time we get to a word [I don’t feel comfortable with] and people wouldn’t be led astray. Is this ok? Like legally, I’m not breaking any laws, right?”
No, you’re not breaking any laws. But we still wouldn’t recommend it. 🙂
4. Showing YouTube Videos in Church
Here’s a frequent question: Can we show YouTube videos in our church service? This question covers a wide spectrum of content: movie clips, lyric videos, the latest viral sensation, etc.
The answer: Only with prior permission from the copyright owner.
The written policy from YouTube’s terms of service specifies that content on the site should only be accessed for “personal, non-commercial use” (5.L.) except where “YouTube or the respective licensors [the copyright owner] of the content” has given “prior written consent” (5.M.).
We have devoted an entire article to the specifics and different scenarios. For more information, read Showing YouTube Videos In Church.
5. Streaming Church Services on Social Media
As live streaming and archived/on demand webcasting of worship services becomes more commonplace, churches ask the inevitable question: Is it legal?
Again, our answer is: You need the proper permission.
In 2011, CCLI added the Streaming License as a supplement to our Copyright License. It is primarily intended to cover the live service webcasts on your church’s website; however it also covers third-party social media platforms, like YouTube and Facebook.
There may be issues to sort through, however, if you use these platforms. As part of YouTube’s video upload process, they will ask whether your video includes copyrighted content that you don’t own. Typically, for church services that include music, the answer is yes. YouTube will then mandate that your video includes advertising, and the rightful copyright owner(s) will receive a share of that ad revenue.
Facebook’s algorithms and search bots are particularly vigilant at identifying and removing videos with potential copyright violations. In the case of church services, Facebook does not initially account for videos that are covered by our Streaming License. So it may require correspondence with their support team to resolve.
We trust that this has been beneficial. If you have additional questions, feel free to contact us. We’re here to help.