Music Copyright License FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions:

Select a question to jump to the answer.

What is a music license and why is it required?

A license is required by law for anyone (including churches) to print/project/record/livestream music. These licenses are required for the same reason we pay for music that we download from iTunes/Spotify. This isn’t just about checking boxes and following the law (although those things are important, too!), it’s about ensuring that artists are compensated for their work and can continue to produce the wonderful music we all enjoy. If we don’t license and report each song’s usage, then that artist doesn’t get paid.

Does the conference carry music licenses that local churches can use?

Unfortunately, with the way these licenses work, the conference cannot purchase a blanket license for all churches. Each church must purchase its own license(s), as needed.

Note: The conference has music licenses to cover conference- and district-sponsored events. If you are hosting a conference- or district-sponsored event, please contact Training and Resource Specialist Havaleh Havelka for more information about utilizing the conference licenses.

How do we know if we need to get a music license?

If you do any of the following, you need a license:

  • Print music or lyrics in a bulletin

  • Print music or lyric handouts

  • Print and distribute songbooks

  • Project music or lyrics onto a screen/monitor

  • Share music lyric videos

  • Livestream worship services or events that include music

  • Record worship services or events that include music and share the video online

Note: This is a non-exhaustive list, but shows the most common needs.

What music license(s) do we need?

The two most common music licenses used in our churches are One License and Christian Copyright Licensing International (CCLI). These companies provide licenses for churches to print music/lyrics, project them onto a screen, or record worship/events where music is being performed.

You might need one or both licenses to cover your worship services and church-sponsored events. Our recommendation is to look at the songs you have been using to see if they are covered by these licenses. For example, if you only use songs from our hymnal, then you only need One License. Please note that these two licensing companies do not cover every song in the world; these are just the two most commonly used licenses by our churches.

What is One License and what music does it cover?

One License is a music copyright licensing program that covers more traditional publishers (e.g., music a traditional church choir would sing) as well as music published by the United Methodist Publishing House. So, songs from the United Methodist Hymnal, The Faith We Sing, etc. are covered by One License. Please check out this list of publishers or utilize this song search to see if the music you would like to utilize is covered. 

What is Christian Copyright Licensing International (CCLI) and what music does it cover?

CCLI covers more contemporary publishers like Hillsong, Bethel, Universal, etc. Utilize their song search to see if the music you wold like to utilize is covered.

How much do these licenses cost?

Each licensing company offers a variety of options depending on your church size and licensing needs. The basic annual licenses cover churches for printing lyrics/music or projecting lyrics/music onto a screen for in-person worship/events. If you are livestreaming or recording your services/events and posting the recordings online, you will need streaming licenses. Streaming licenses cover livestreaming or sharing video recordings on your website/social media.

What does it mean for a song to be in the "public domain"?

Public domain refers to creative materials that are not protected by intellectual property laws such as copyright, trademark, or patent laws. Because of this, a license is not required. This includes any music published before 1925; so, you'll notice that a number of classic hymns are in the public domain. 

We sing together but don’t print or project the music or lyrics. Do we need a license?

If you livestream or record the worship/event and share the video online, yes -- you need a streaming license. If you sing common songs from memory or teach songs through call and response/repeat and are not livestreaming or recording, you do not need a license.

We only utilize instrumental music. Do we need a license?

If you livestream or record the worship/event and share the video online, yes -- you need a streaming license. If you are not livestreaming or recording, and you are not printing/projecting the music or lyrics, you do not need a license.

We use pre-recorded professional music tracks/recordings. Do we need a license?

Yes. You might find the track/recording covered under One License or CCLI. If not, you will need to locate the copyright owner or license holder for that song.

We hired a musician/band to lead worship and they want to project/print lyrics. Do we need a license?

If the band is using songs they’ve written, then no licensing is required. If the musician/band does not have licensing of their own (and has those license numbers with the lyrics), then your music license(s) would need to be utilized.

What if we can't find the license holder or copyright owner for a song?

One License and CCLI do not cover every song in the world; these are just the two most commonly used licenses by our churches.

  • If you don't see the song/publisher listed for those licenses, you can search for the song's copyright owner or license holder online.

  • If you find the song covered by another license, you need to obtain that license to utilize the song.

  • If you don't find the song covered by any license, you can contact the song's writer and/or publisher to request permission.

  • If you do not obtain a license or express written permission to utilize the song, it cannot be printed/projected/livestreamed/recorded.

Can we share music videos or lyric videos?

If you create the video, yes -- you can share the video in worship or online as long as you have a license to cover the music/lyrics. We recommend that you don’t show any videos (that you haven't created yourself) without the explicit permission of the copyright owner.
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Can we show a movie (clip or full movie)?

Similar to music licensing, you need proper licensing to show a movie in a public setting (e.g., worship or a special event such as a movie night). Christian Video Licensing International (CVLI) is a licensing service for movies. Their event license pricing is based upon attendance numbers.

CVLI does not cover all movies. Check their producer listings for their total package or family values package to ensure that the producer of the film you'd like to show is included in their licensing. If the film you'd like to show is not covered by CVLI, you will need to find the license-holder.

What about royalty-free materials?

Royalty-free (RF) materials can be used without reporting or having to license each use of the material. There are lots of websites out there that offer royalty-free music, images, graphics, videos, sound effects, and more. Some sites are completely free; others require a membership and/or a fee.

Note: Similar to music permissions, you shouldn't just copy and paste any image, GIF, video, etc. you find on the internet. You should only use materials you have permission to use.

Below are some websites where you can download royalty-free materials:

Additional questions about licenses?

One License, CCLI, and CVLI representatives are very kind and helpful. They will be able to answer more specific questions about what their licenses provide and which specific license best fits your church's needs.