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 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.

There are 3 broad categories of licensing: Items you broadcast to the public, items you use in congregational singing, and items your musicians need to rehearse. Below are the general guidelines for each. 

For the Public

Performance

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.

Here’s a brief definition 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 Copyright 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.

Streaming or Recording your Worship

If you record or stream your worship services, you'll need a license for any music that is involved. Here are some common places to get this:

For your Congregation

If you'd like to provide lyrics or sheet music that assist with congregational singing, including computer projections, songsheets, bulletin inserts, and more, you can get a license from one of the following providers:

For your Musicians

Bands and worship teams need a variety of charts and audio to prepare properly. Choose the service that gives you what you need.  

Both Audio and Charts: 

  • RehearsalPack by MultiTracks provides original audio, chord charts, and lyric files. The RehearsalPack Integration makes linking these files to your Planning Center account easy. This product is exclusive to Planning Center customers.

  • 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.

Audio Only:

  • RehearsalMix has the original audio recordings from many worship songs and provides different mixes for each instrument played on that song. Purchase credits ahead of time, and each time a new person listens to a mix, a credit is deducted.

  • 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.

  • Link directly to the song on iTunes or AmazonMP3, and let your users download the song. Planning Center can provide a 30 second preview, users will need to purchase the item to hear the full song.

  • Link to files on music streaming services such as Spotify, YouTube, or Vimeo. Users will need an account at each of these to access the full song.

Charts and Lyrics only:

  • 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.

The Copyright Compliance Report Card

Take 5 minutes to get your grade with the online Copyright Report Card first, which answers questions about the legal use of copyrighted material and how to utilize church blanket licenses.

Learn more about church copyright issues from the Church Copyright Toolkit.

Tracking Licenses

Services allows you to track the licenses you've purchased for copyrighted files.

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

Summary Please?

Almost all churches need either RehearsalPack by Multitracks, Church Streaming License by Multitracks, or 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 either RehearsalPack by Multitracks or The Church Rehearsal License by CCLI.

Print music is more complicated. RehearsalPack by Multitracks or 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 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.

Related Information

The information provided in this article is provided to include most copyright info in one place and should not be used for definitive legal information. Please see the following sites for legal information, and for other licenses they offer

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