Today, everything in the United States is licensed, issued, owned, and/or copyrighted. Unless your church is always creating original content for every service, your likely using someone else’s copyrighted work. US Copyright laws create great confusion in general, and the church exemption adds to the confusion. Every church is exempt from US Copyright law to perform live music during their regular weekly religious service(s). That means you can hold worship during your service(s) each week with no licensing. However, if you want to work with sheet music, post lyrics for your congregation to sing along with, record the performance, show a movie clip, and so many other things besides just playing music…you’ll need specific licensing.
At New Day, we purchase several different licenses that cover us for various copyright issues we encounter.
CCLI: This license covers us for printing and editing sheet music, using lyrics within ProPresenter on Sundays, and recording our live worship sets for reference.
CVLI: This license covers us when we use various movie clips during our services. We do an annual God At The Box Office sermon series, which includes clips and previews from various box office blockbusters.
Rehearse by CCLI: This license covers us for sharing music within our Planning Center online account. Our worship team has access to original recordings of all the songs we sing at New Day, and Rehearse covers the digital streaming of those files, as well as allowing them to download the songs for rehearsal and practice purposes.
Mechanical License: These license(s) are purchased for recording copyrighted music for our annual worship album. In order to record our worship album and distribute it, we need to purchase licensing for each song. Even though we give out the annual worship album to everyone at New Day for free, we still need to purchase mechanical licenses so the original writers are compensated.
To conclude, there are so many other licenses that are required to cover different aspects within regular church events and activities. It can get very confusing trying to figure out if a license is required, and what license to purchase. Best rule of thumb, if you are using any music, video, or content that someone else has created, there’s a good chance you’ll need a license.