This music copyright page has 3 sections. It contains information that will help the music team understand our obligations and how they can help us to do the right thing.

A Brief Introduction to Copyright Gives a brief overview of music copyright.

Music Reproduction Licence This licence allows us to copy sheet music. It provides for the publisher of a Christian songbook, website, etc, to be properly remunerated. Therefore, it is essential for the source of the music to be recorded, as well as the details of the actual song.

Church Copyright Licence This licence allows us to copy/project song lyrics, possibly make custom arrangements, and record the service.

A Brief Introduction to Copyright

What is Copyright?

Copyright is the legal right of any creator of an original musical, artistic, literary or dramatic work (and some others whose work encapsulates those original works) to control the use of that work and to set the terms (e.g. financial) for others to make use of that work, if they give permission for it to be used. That means, with some limited exceptions allowed in the law, that permission must be sought directly or indirectly from the copyright-owner if you want to use that work in any way.

Copyright can be assigned (basically, sold) to someone else, who then owns the rights to that work. Song-composers usually assign their rights to a publisher. Performers on a CD can co-own copyright with the record producer (record label). Their ownership share is usually assigned to the record label.

We can readily appreciate the creative work and rights of the writer of the words of a song, and the composers and arrangers of the tunes, but, as mentioned, they are not the only ones with rights. For instance, when someone publishes a music book with those songs in it, that publisher has put time and effort and skill into arranging the typesetting of the book. That is in itself copyright, apart from the rights of the song-composers. Also the producer of a CD has copyright in the recording of the songs on that CD, as well as the song-writers having copyright on their compositions.

You may think that churches have legal rights when it comes to performing Christian songs in a church. The US copyright law does make an exception for church worship services. However, in Australia, this is not the case. There are no special exceptions for churches in the Australian Copyright Act. However, the performing-right licensing organisations, in Australia, have adopted a policy of allowing their members’ works to be performed strictly within a worship service context without requiring payment.

Duration of Copyright

For song-composers and authors, copyright lasts for 70 years after the end of the year in which the writer dies. Copyright in a sound recording lasts for 70 years after its creation. (This is somewhat complicated by the fact that it was 50 years in Australia, until the Aust-US Free Trade Agreement came into effect in 2005, when it changed to 70 years. If any work’s copyright had expired under the 50 year law it remained expired, but, if it hadn’t, 20 years was added to the 50!)

A published edition of a book lasts for 25 years, after the end of the year of first publication. The song-writers of a song in a songbook could have been dead for 1,000 years but, if the published date of that songbook is 25 years’ ago or less, you cannot photocopy/scan that song without the publisher’s permission.

When copyright expires it is said to be in the “public domain” (PD). If a song and the songbook that it is in are both in the public domain, permission is not required to photocopy the song and there is no need to report doing that.

The Role of Copyright Intermediaries

Without copyright licensing organisations, churches would have two options to use music in their services. One is to use hymnbooks only. The purchase price of hymnbooks gives the right to use them in church. The other option is to directly contact every copyright-holder (or their agents) to seek permission, and to directly pay them to use their creative work. Sounds like an administrative nightmare!

Fortunately, organisations have been formed to collectively represent many copyright-holders in a particular area – all who sign-up with them. The organisations will issue licences to users and distribute the licence proceeds to their member copyright-holders, according to the reporting of users of what material they have used in a given period (or, in some cases, they use other statistical methods).

In Australia, APRA represents song-writers/publishers whose works are performed,
AMCOS represents the interests of song-writers/publishers whose works are reproduced,
ARIA represents music labels and performers whose works are reproduced,
PPCA represents music labels whose recordings are performed, and
Copyright Agency represents authors.

Churches use music in a way which is a bit out of the ordinary (such as the arrangement of the lyrics so the whole audience can participate in singing). To fill the licensing gap, Christian organisations exist, representing Christian song-writers/publishers, with special licensing arrangements for churches. The one that our church has a number of licences with is CCLI. There are two that are particularly important for our musicians to understand because they have detailed usage reporting requirements.

CCLI Music Reproduction Licence

With this licence, publishers are giving us the right to reproduce their work.
The CCLI Music Reproduction Licence allows our church to digitally share music files
and to photocopy, scan, download and print sheet music from Songbooks, Websites,
Enhanced CDs or CCLI’s own subscription service called SongSelect,
but only according to these Licence Terms:

  1. Both the particular song version you want AND the published source (e.g. songbook) must be in the CCLI database. That is, the song-writers and publishers actually must have signed-up to CCLI. You can check using a search facility link on the home page of CCLI at:
  2. The original source (e.g. songbook, enhanced CD) should preferably be owned by the church. The only exception to this is if the songbook is permanently out of print.
  3. The copying must be for the use of the church, not for one of the member’s personal use nor for another church to use.
  4. Only as much copying can be done as is needed to be used at the time.
  5. These words must be written onto every photocopy made:
    Reproduced By Permission. MRL No. 201944
  6. All copies must be reported to CCLI.
  7. You can not change the basic lyrics, melody or fundamental character of any song.
  8. You can store music files on a file-sharing service (e.g. Dropbox) provided it is password-protected and accessible only by church members.
  9. Any copy must be promptly made available to CCLI, if requested, for auditing purposes.

Where are we copying our sheet music from?

  • Download from SongSelect. There is no need for you to record this anywhere, as this information is available to our reporter on SongSelect.
  • Photocopy of downloaded copy from SongSelect. Please record these copies, noting the source as SongSelect.
  • Songbook or enhanced CD. Please record the exact details of which songbook or enhanced CD you copied from, and number of copies.
  • Website. Please record the exact details of the website, and the number of copies.
  • Cloud storage. If you transfer sheet music to a cloud storage service, that is making a copy. Every time you download that copy, that is making another copy. Please record all this activity.
  • Photocopy of music in a folder and you don’t know where it came from. As you don’t know the source it can’t be reported, and we are in breach of copyright and the terms of our licence. Please find the music you need somewhere else.

How do we record what we have copied?

There is a plastic folder with forms inside for recording the copies that you need to advise us of. It is either on the piano or somewhere nearby. Remember, we need to know where you got the copy from.

CCLI Church Copyright Licence

What can we do?

  • We can make copies of song lyrics in various ways:

    • Put them into a computer and then project them, or on slides for overheads.
    • Print them in Service Sheets, or in booklet form.
    • Transfer to a personal device or cloud storage service (this is a reportable copying event). Note that every access of the cloud storage service is a reportable copying event.
    • Translate them, if no published version already exists.
  • We can make custom vocal or instrumental arrangements of songs for congregational use, but only where no published version is available.
  • We can make a recording of all live parts of a service (but not a recording of a recording, e.g. CD), and there are limits as to the number of copies we can make and how much we could charge for CD’s or DVD’s.

What can’t we do?

  • Use any song under this licence if it is not in the CCLI database.
  • Alter the basic lyrics, melody or fundamental character of any song (e.g. the words cannot be changed or added to).
  • Duplicate any octavos, cantatas, musicals, handbell music, vocal solos, keyboard music, instrumental work.

Some other requirements

  • Every reproduced version of a song must contain:

    • Full and correct song title
    • Writer credits
    • Copyright notice
    • Permission nottice

    “In Christ Alone”, words and music by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend
    ©2001 Thankyou Music
    Used By Permission. CCLI Licence #123175

  • All usage must be compiled weekly. Everything that is done under this licence must be reported.
  • Copies made under this licence are restricted to use in our church’s regular on-site activities up to our licensed congregational size (that’s 199 attendees at present). If we were to have a special event where the possible number of people attending was more than this, or if an activity was off-site, we would need to consider an Event Licence.
  • Any copy of a song must be promptly made available to CCLI, on request, for audit purposes.

How do we record our activity?

There is a plastic folder with forms inside for recording the activity under this licence. It is either on the piano or somewhere nearby. Although the main activity is our two Sunday services, it is also necessary to write down anything that is done outside of these. We need to know whether the words were printed rather than projected, whether the performance of the songs was recorded, and whether any custom arrangements were made

Each song version/arrangement needs to be precisely identified in the CCLI database. The following points will help:

  • If you have the CCLI song number, that’s all that’s needed.
  • If you have downloaded the song from SongSelect during the week before, the CCLI number can be picked up by the reporter from there.
  • If the song comes from the Rejoice hymnbook and used unchanged, you can just write it as coming from there.
  • If a song is one of our regular repertoire, it will be known to the reporter – no need to record details.
  • If there could be any uncertainty about exactly identifying a particular song version, please supply as much detail as you can: title, author, composer, arranger, publisher, published date.