Does My Church Need A CCLI License?
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Does My Church Need A CCLI License?

Does My Church Need A CCLI License?

Churches are not required to pay for a CCLI (Church Copyright License International) license to use copyrighted music legally. However, there are some huge restrictions on using copyrighted music.

This article will explore whether or not your church needs this license and how much it costs.

Does My Church Need A CCLI License?

What Is CCLI?

Howard Rachinski, a US-based music minister, founded Copyright Licensing International (CCLI) in 1988. CCLI was created after 3½ years of development by Rachinski while he was a music minister at a major church in Portland, Oregon. May 1985 saw the start of Starpraise Ministries, the prototype.

CCLI was founded to provide an alternative copyright licensing service that would be more affordable than ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, and GEMA. Today there are over 18 thousand churches around the world that have joined CCLI.

Do I Need A CCLI License To Sing Copyrighted Songs In Church?

The short answer is no! However, there are some pretty strict parameters to this exemption. You must be singing those songs in an in-person designated worship service. Not children’s church, vacation Bible school, or other extracurricular activities. It must be in a worship service. And the exemption only covers singing and instruments. It does not cover printing songs on a sheet of paper to be used while singing. It does not cover projecting lyrics on a screen or TV. It does not cover the use of background tracks or videos of the artist performing. Only church musicians perform songs that the congregation is singing. That is the extent of the exemption.

Do I Need A CCLI License To Project Slides In Church?

Unfortunately, the answer is yes! Any lyrics reproduction, whether by a projector or a printer, requires a license. You might think it is crazy that projecting slides with lyrics would require a license. But the language of the law states “copying or reproducing” in any shape or form. Since this could be done without singing but still allow somebody to read along with the song, it technically falls under the law.

Do I Need A CCLI License To Play Copyrighted Songs On My Sound System?

Yes, if it is not your musicians playing and your congregants singing, then it is not exempt. You need a license.

Do I Need A CCLI License To Play Copyrighted Music In Church Choir Practice Or Instrumental Warm-ups?

Yes, it counts even if you are not singing along with the artist or following along with lyrics on paper. You must have a license. Any time you are using the music of another, you need a license. It is only when performing that this is exempt.

Do I Need A CCLI License To Live Stream Music?

This is another yes! Live streaming music falls under the same category as projecting slides with lyrics. It is technically “copying and reproducing” in any shape or form. And it is something that is happening away from the in-person worship service.

CCLI has a specific license that is added to their basic license that covers your musicians performing music. It does not cover broadcasting the music of other artists. It also does not cover royalties via ad revenue from certain streaming platforms. So do not be surprised if YouTube flags your content for a copyright issue and puts ads on the video to pay royalties.

How Do I Get A CCLI License For My Church?

CCLI has a simple online application that you can complete in just a few minutes.

The basic license from CCLI starts at $66 per year for churches with an average weekly attendance of up to 24 people. The price goes up incrementally for larger churches. You can find more information on their website.

CCLI is a necessary evil for churches today. It protects the artist’s rights to be compensated for their work while allowing churches to use copyrighted music in their services legally. It is not perfect, and it is not always affordable. But it is the best option we have right now.

Conclusion – Does My Church Need A CCLI License

Does your church need a CCLI license?

The answer is, unfortunately, yes. Any time you are using the music of another, whether it be playing it live or streaming it online, you need a license. However, there are some exemptions for in-person worship services. You are exempt if you only play and sing the songs in a worship service alone. But what church does only that?

So for most churches, a CCLI license is a necessary evil.

Thank you for reading our article on Does My Church Need A CCLI License!

Pastor Duke Taber
Pastor Duke Taber

Pastor Duke Taber

All articles have been written or reviewed by Pastor Duke Taber.
Pastor Duke Taber is an alumnus of Life Pacific University and Multnomah Biblical Seminary.
He has been in pastoral ministry since 1988.
Today he is the owner and managing editor of 3 successful Christian websites that support missionaries around the world.
He is currently starting a brand new church in Mesquite NV called Mesquite Worship Center, a Non-Denominational Spirit Filled Christian church in Mesquite Nevada.