Copyright Concerns

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Planning Center does not include any form of copyright licensing and is not responsible for any misuse on your part. Sharing audio, charts, or lyrics that you do not have the licenses for is illegal, even if you don't allow downloading. If you do own all the copyrights to a song, such as a song you have written, or you have obtained the licenses to distribute them electronically, you are free to do so.

Check out the most common solutions churches use to obtain licenses to use copyrighted material.

Sharing Printed Music

  • The Church Copyright License from CCLI covers copying activities that assist with congregational singing, including computer projections, songsheets, bulletin inserts, recording your service, and more. It does not, however, include sharing audio files recorded by someone else and sharing published chord charts or sheet music. To legally share published chord charts or sheet music, you need a separate license.
  • SongSelect by CCLI provides transposable chord sheets, lead sheets, and vocal sheets, plus lyrics and audio samples for top CCLI songs. SongSelect is an annual subscription with different tiers which provides different types of files. The SongSelect Integration makes it easy to import files included in your SongSelect subscription.
  • PraiseCharts provides many types of files for print and audio. Purchase each file separately, and many print files allow you to share that file with five people before you need to buy more licenses. The PraiseCharts Integration makes it easy to import files purchased from PraiseCharts.
  • Upload any file to Services, even if it's not from SongSelect or PraiseCharts, but check with the music provider to see how many licenses are included with the file and then use the File License Tracking to keep track of those licenses.

Contact Christian Copyright Solutions for more information about other copyrights or for help in obtaining licenses for songs that aren't covered by CCLI.

Sharing Audio

  • The Church Rehearsal License by CCLI allows you to legally copy commercial audio recordings and/or share audio files via email, flash drives, or on worship planning websites.
  • PraiseCharts provides many types of files for print and audio. Purchase each file separately, and many audio files allow you to share that file with five people before you need to buy more licenses. The PraiseCharts Integration makes it easy to import files you purchase from PraiseCharts.
  • Link directly to the song on iTunes or AmazonMP3, and let your users download the song.
  • Link to files on music streaming services such as Spotify, YouTube, or Vimeo.
  • RehearsalMix has the original audio recordings from many worship songs and provides different mixes for each instrument that played on that song. Purchase credits ahead of time, and each time a new person listens to a mix, a credit is deducted.

Contact Christian Copyright Solutions for more information about other copyrights or for help in obtaining licenses for songs that aren't covered by CCLI.

Tracking Licenses

Services allows you to keep track of how many licenses you've purchased for copyrighted files and emails you when you've used them. You can get license info for each file or view all files in your account from the Attachments page. 

Files will never become unavailable to your users just because you are out of licenses. No matter what the license state, users can still access files, and you'll be notified that you have overdrawn your licenses.

Only Editors and Administrators have access to manage File Licenses.

Add Licenses

Adding Licenses
  1. Purchased - When you add or edit a file, you can enter the total number of licenses you've purchased.
  2. Used - The number of licenses used is calculated based on the access log to the left. Each person who has viewed or downloaded a file is treated as 1 used license. It doesn't matter how many times that person has viewed or downloaded the file, they are only counted once, so the number of licenses used is the number of unique people who have accessed that file.
  3. Remaining - The number of licenses remaining subtracts the used licenses from the licenses purchased. If you see a negative number, then you've used more licenses than you've purchased and need to purchase more.
  4. License Administrator - The License Administrator is automatically set to the person who enters a number in the "Purchased" field, but you can change that. The License Administrator will be notified once this file needs more licenses.

Until you enter a number into the Purchased field, your file is ignored for licensing purposes. However, usage is always tracked, regardless of whether you enter a number into the Purchased column, so even if you don't need licenses for a file, you can see how many people have accessed it. That means you won't be notified in any way until you indicate you want to track licenses for a file by entering a number into the Purchased field.

License Overage Emails

License Overage Emails

Once a week, License overages emails are sent out to any License Administrators whose files need new licenses. These emails will list all files assigned to them and provide a link to log in to the attachments page where they can update their licenses. Click the green "Update Licenses" button to log in to the attachment page.

Managing Many Licenses at Once

You can see all the files in your entire account from the attachments page at which you can access from the link at the bottom of the License Overage email. Use the filter section on the left to see particular files. The Licenses dropdown allows you to see All files, Overdrawn files, or files with no licenses being tracked. You can also filter based on who the License Administrator is.

A Note about Sub-Permissions: Only users with Editor or Administrator permission can access this page. The page will show all attachments for the entire account, however, if a user has a lower sub-permission for a specific folder or service type, they won't be able to access, edit or delete files for it. For example, if I am an Admin for the whole account, but I have only Viewer permission for the Wednesday Night service, I'll be able to access this page, I will see files attached to the Wednesday Night Service, but if I try to access, edit or delete them, I'll get a warning saying I don't have permission to do so.


Copyrights can be somewhat complicated, but Planning Center Services tries to give you many ways to make them a little easier, including License Tracking, and CCLI Reports. Why would you need to use File License Tracking?

Some places you get files include unlimited usage of those files, or give you a bulk reporting tool that needs you to report the individual files, but you don't have to buy individual licenses. Other places include a certain number of licenses with each file and require you to purchase more licenses once you've used the existing ones. Most files purchased through, for example, include 5 licenses of each file. If you want more than 5 people to access the file, you need to contact them to purchases the additional licenses. Individually purchased sheet music are probably the kind of files that need individual license tracking the most.

Every distributor of music is different, so it's up to you to know if your purchase includes unlimited usage, or if you receive a number of licenses with your purchase.

There are companies that can provide blanket licenses for some things. CCLI's Rehearsal License, for example, gives you a license that allows your users to access copyrighted audio files that would normally require individual licenses. If you don't have the Rehearsal License or something comparable, you would have to get individual permission from the publisher of each audio file in order to distribute it.

Performance Licensing

There is a religious service exemption in U.S. copyright law that allows churches to perform copyrighted music during religious services without paying royalties. The exemption does not cover any music played or performed outside of worship services. If your church is playing or performing copyrighted music outside of your religious services, you need a church performance license.

Music performance rights represent a fairly simple concept, but one that is often misunderstood. Part of the confusion may come from the fact that “public performance” is just one of six exclusive rights controlled by a song owner. For example, the performance right is different than the right to copy or reproduce a song on your own recording, and the required licenses for these two rights are quite different.

Here’s a brief definitions to help lay the groundwork for understanding performance licensing. First, the legal definition of a public performance is:

An instance of music being performed “in a place open to the public or at any place where a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances is gathered.”

A performance license grants permission to have these public performances, whether it is a live performance or playing of pre-recorded music.

Christian Copright Solutions partners with ASCAP, BMI and SESAC (U.S. performance rights organizations) to provide churches with a one-stop performance license: WORSHIPcast Streaming License (online websites) and PERFORMmusic Premise License (onsite facilities) with comprehensive coverage for 20 million songs, Christian, holiday and secular music.

Summary Please?

Almosts all churches need Church Copyright License from CCLI, even if just to show lyrics to your congregation.

If you want to share audio with your team for rehearsal purposes, you probably need The Church Rehearsal License by CCLI.

Print music is more complicated. SongSelect by CCLI is a subscription with tons of songs, but there is only one master version of each song. PraiseCharts' songs have different arrangements of each song, but you purchase each file separately. You can choose the best option for you, or you can even use them both.

If you play copyrighted audio publicly, or perform music anywhere outside of worship services, you probably need the PERFORMmusic Premise License from CCS.

If you want to stream music from your service on the internet, you probably need the WORSHIPcast Streaming License from CCS.

Become an Expert

Become an Expert

Copyright issues can be complex, confusing and overwhelming for church and ministry leaders, but here’s a great resource you can download for free at The Copyright Coach by CCS: Solve the Puzzle of Copyrights: Six Keys to Learning How to Do Music Right.  Based on 30 years of experience teaching and helping churches with copyright compliance, the eBook is written by Susan Fontaine Godwin, CCS’s founder/CVO. She is also an adjunct professor at the University of Mobile, where she teaches “Survey of Copyrights and Intellectual Property Law” within the Worship Leadership program.

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