The Four-Letter Word: PLAN System Works for Copyright Compliance

Posted on January 13, 2009

More and more churches are wisely planning events to allow for timely copyright clearances. Here are some practical tips on how to make sure all your copyrighted material is cleared before your events.

The key to copyright compliance is P.L.A.N.—1) Prepare a list of all the details for each copyrighted work; 2) Learn the basics of the Copyright Law or let a copyright professional help you with research and licenses; 3) Allow enough time to research and obtain permission; 4) Never use copyright material without permission or exemption. (Visit http://copyrightsolver.com/CopyrightEducation.aspx for educational resources).


If you begin planning 3 months prior to major seasonal productions, you will allow time for the following processes:

1. Research and identify all copyrighted material that will be used in the production. As your creative worship team submits ideas and materials require that they include complete copyright information: full title, author, source, lyrics, product on which it appears with UPC# (CD, Musical or Songbook, Website, a book, etc.), copyright notice, publishers and administrators.
2. Identify and note all of the possible reproductions of copyrighted material for your production. Will it include any of the following:
• Audio recording (CD, Cassette, MP3)
• Video recording (VHS and DVD)
• Custom arrangements
• Rehearsal Trax
• Use of master recordings (a record label’s recording of the song) for CDs or Trax
• Use of master recordings on video
• Photocopies taken from a songbook or musicals
• Custom arrangements made for orchestra, choir or ensemble
• Will you sell tickets to the event? If so, you may need a performance license in order to do so.
• Multi-media image presentation. Will you reproduce copyrighted visual images or photos, and will they be included in a video?
• Literary. Will the production include drama or literary quotes, which may require clearances?
• Will the production be broadcast on TV or Radio?

3. Compile a list of all copyrighted material and projected uses or reproductions.
4. Define all details regarding the production, including project title, performance dates, number of units of each medium to be reproduced, selling prices for each reproduction, etc.
5. Submit your license requests to copyright owners at least 3 months prior to performance dates. Companies like Christian Copyright Solutions (CCS) (www.copyrightsolver.com) can also help you with research and identifying hard to find information about copyrights and obtain licenses on your behalf.
6. Include royalty fees in your production budget. On the average, copyright royalty fees for a Easter production with CD, Video, Rehearsal Trax and Photocopies average between $800-2,000, depending on the number and types of copyrights used. Here’s a list of estimated royalty fees for various copyrighted materials:
• Audio recordings: $.091 per song (recording time of up to 5 minutes) or $.0175 per minute per unit manufactured and distributed. 5:01-6:00 minutes $.105; 6:01-7:00 $.1225; 7:01-8:00 $.14. This rate applies to CDs as well as audio digital formats for downloads. Many companies have minimum fees of $10-25 if you have low quantities of units. Master recordings (using the song as recorded on an existing CD): $.15 to $.25 per song recording per unit. Many companies have minimum fees of $10-25 if you have low quantities of units. Some companies charge up to $175 minimum flat fee.
• Audiovisual (Video, DVD) recordings (synchronization): $.15 to $.25 per song per video. Some secular companies may require a minimum flat fee as high as $300.
• Print: Custom arrangements or photocopies from songbooks. Fees range from $.50 to $1.25 per song per copy, and there are often flat fee minimums of $15-25. One secular publisher charges $100, no matter how many units you want to make.

NOTE: Make sure you have all the annual blanket licenses that will give you coverage for various copyrights and uses without requiring you to get individual permissions.


PerformMusic LICENSE from CCS (www.copyrightsolver.com)

One-stop license with more than 16 million songs from ASCAP, BMI and SESAC allows churches to perform and play songs onsite in their facilities for non-exempt activities like playing music before or after a church service, music-on-hold, through speaker system in facilities, aerobics/exercise class, weddings & funerals, seminars or conferences, and social & youth events 


WorshipCast License from CCS (www.copyrightsolver.com)

One-Stop Church Internet Song Performance License - Allows churches to webcast and stream worship services and events featuring your performances of more than 16 million songs from ASCAP, BMI and SESAC repertoires.


CVLI – Christian Video License International Coverage from CVLI) - www.cvli.com allows performance or playing of the following: 

  • Pastors can use selected movies to illustrate sermon points; 
  • Sunday schools and Youth Groups can view the latest videos; 
  • Educational classes can show videos for teaching and training.  If movies have multiple producers, permission is needed from all copyright holders.

CCLI – Christian Copyright License International

Coverage from CCLI (www.ccli.com) -  Allows churches to reproduce about 200,000 songs in the CCLI Song program for congregational singing in the following ways:

  • Print songs, hymns, lyrics in bulletins for congregational singing;
  • Create custom songbooks (bound or unbound) for congregational singing;
  • Create overhead transparencies, slides & other formats for visually projected songs;
  • Arrange, print and copy your own arrangements for songs used for congregational singing where no published version is available;
  • Record your worship services (provided you only record live music and do not reproduce accompaniment tracks) and sell for up to $4 each for cassette tapes and CDs and $12 each for videotapes and DVDs.