Myth #4: “My CCLI license provides performance licenses.”

Susan Godwin CCS Photo
Today’s guest post is the first of a six-part series from Christian Copyright Solutions Founder and President Susan Fontaine Godwin, an educator and long-time member of the Christian arts community with 28 years of experience in the Christian media industry, church copyright administration and copyright management.

Do you ever grow increasingly uneasy the more times a chorus is repeated at the end of a worship song? You’re never quite sure if this is the last one or if it’s repeating another time or two? My home church uses a little symbol, a simplified version of the church’s logo, to indicate when the song is really, truly ending. I thought that was a brilliant idea, since otherwise, you have to rely on the worship leader’s sometimes-unreliable “one more time” warning or maybe the appearance of the song’s copyright and CCLI info, since those lines of tiny type are included on what is, presumably, the last slide of the song.

Unless you’re experienced with copyrights, your main familiarity with CCLI is probably in that lovely fine print at the bottom of the screen. But like the fine print on pharmaceutical ads or in a magazine’s masthead, we tend to just overlook it. Like many in the church, my guess was that CCLI gives the church the right to use the song in worship.

That’s true, to an extent, but what exactly does “use” mean, in this context? Not to parse language too much, but it actually makes a big difference—the difference between using music legally and illegally in your church.

a license is a reproduction license, covering the printing of copyrighted music and lyrics in bulletins or congregational songbooks, or projecting of them on screen, the CCLI license covers some very specific music uses, including the limited creation of custom arrangements for congregational singing, and limited recording of worship services onto CDs and DVDs. (For further detail of what is covered by the CCLI license, contact your CCLI representative.)

The CCLI license does not cover performance of copyrighted music. Performance of hymns and other songs in worship is covered by the Religious Service Exemption in U.S. Copyright Law. But that exemption doesn’t apply outside of a congregational worship service. Playing or performing copyrighted music during other events requires performance licensing. CCLI is a valuable resource, but don’t make the mistake of assuming it covers every way you use music in your church.

Want to know more about copyright myths that put your church at risk? Watch this helpful video from Christian Copyright Solutions and download their free downloadable resource to worship ministers – 6 Myths About Copyrights That Put Your Church at Risk. CCS’s quest is to help churches and Christian ministries “do music right.” CCS is an expert on church music copyrights and our primary focus is providing licensing and clear educational resources to churches, as well as representation, administration and advocacy for copyright owners.


  1. That all could get a little confusing I think.

    • You’re right. That’s why ccs exists (and why I was okay with them guest posting. Churches need real help in this confusing area.

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