Copyright and your church – Part 2. Getting the right permission

Licensing image

Copyright and your church – Part 2. Getting the right permission

In the last 'management' blog  we looked at some of the basic issues affecting copyright in your church. Now we turn our attention to the different licenses that you can have (or should have) to manage your responsibilities.
The main organisation which you need to know about is Christian Copyright Licensing International – normally referred to as CCLI – which have a range of different licences available to meet your needs. We will look at three of these but first a warning. Although licences cover most publications, songs, or films they do not cover them all so it is important to check before assuming you are covered. Conversely some authors declare some of their work to be copyright free.
Many churches want to copy home group materials and study guides and for this permission is normally required. This is covered by Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) Church Licence. The requirement applies if the book or article being copied is less the 25 years old regardless of whether the original material is Public Domain (ie the original creator has been dead for 70 years).
The photocopying of music and lyrics from publications or from the authorised websites is covered by a Music Reproduction Licence (MRL) from CCLI so long as one copy of the original publication or file is owned by a member of a licensed church. Any church holding a Church Copyright Licence (CCL – see below) can purchase a MRL.
Reproducing and projection song words
If you only use purchased hymn books then the copyright fee (song royalty) is included in the original price of the book but this does not give you the right to reproduce it if the book is less than 25 years old. You may write or type out the words a song that is Public Domain and then reproduce your copy but this is cumbersome. However a few decades ago most church started wanting to produce songs words on acetates for use with OHPs and many now use digital projectors. For this you need Church Copyright Licence (CCL)which allows you to reproduce song words. It does not include photocopying directly from song books less than 25 years old which is covered by the MRL – see above. 
Showing films and playing pre-recorded music
Music - Sometimes music is played in churches from a CD or other recording. PRS for Music have chosen to waive the requirement for a licence during a ‘recognised service of divine worship in consecrated places of worship’.
Film clips – both Christian and secular - can by really useful in illustrating points in a sermon or other talk and these are protected by copyright in two ways. Firstly for the film itself and secondly for the sound track. During acts of worship the requirement for the sound track has been waived by ‘PRS for Music’ but you will however still need permission from the film producer and a Church Video Licence (CVL) from CCLI covers this for most major producers including the big names like Walt Disney and Pixar.
For both music and film additional requirements may apply if the service is being recorded.

If this all sounds expensive then it need not for a small church but it does depend on what you are doing. If you are regularly singing new worship songs then this cost needs to be balanced against the cost of the purchase of new song books and the inconvenience of having several different books to hand out. Costs are based on the average attendance figures and example costs (correct as at January 2016) are given for two church sizes below.

Average attendance 15 to 49
CLA £36.17
MRL £35.00
CCL £70.00
CVL £73.00

Average attendance 50 to 99
CLA £63.38
MRL £63.00
CCL £136.00
CVL £149.00

At first glance (and even second glance) this maze of licences can be confusing but there are some excellent resources on the CCLI website including an easy pricing guide. It also provides information on what to do if you meet in more than one location or are an itinerant individual.

Nick Jones