Christian Copyright Licensing International

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Christian Copyright Licensing International (CCLI) is a privately owned company that was founded in the US in 1988 by Howard Rachinski, who is the President/CEO. CCLI was launched after being developed by Howard for 3½ years while he was a Music Minister at a large church in Portland, Oregon. This prototype, called Starpraise Ministries, began in May 1985. CCLI offers copyright licensing of songs and other resource materials for use in Christian worship.

Since its foundation, CCLI has expanded around the world to Australia, Botswana, Canada, Denmark, Faroe Islands, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, South Africa, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and Zimbabwe.

Licences and services[edit]

The licenses / services offered by CCLI have expanded, including:

Church Copyright License 
for the reproduction of songs (The CCLI.COM Church License does not allow you to make copies of originals. From the CCLI.COM License: "3.0 restrictions: This license does not allow churches to do the following: Photocopy or duplicate any photo sheet music (octavos) cantadas, musicals, handbell music, keyboard music, vocal solo, or instrumental works.")
Photocopy / Music Reproduction License 
for the photocopying of contemporary worship music
online access of worship song lyrics, sound samples, and download of lead sheets, chord sheets, and soprano/alto/tenor/bass hymn sheets
Video License 
in a joint venture with MPLC, under the company name of Christian Video Licensing International, for the copyright licensing of the playing of videos / DVDs for church activities
CVLI introduced ScreenVue in 2003 as a separate service available for CVLI Video Licensees. ScreenVue offers both free and paid membership which gives the subscriber access to movie clips for illustration use in sermons or other presentations.

As of July 15, 2007, the annual fee for a US CCLI license ranged from $49 (for a church size less than 25 people) to $4260 (for a church size greater than 200,000 people).[1] License fees are similar for churches in other countries, taking exchange rates into account.[2][3]

"CCLI distributes the majority of the License Fee to the copyright owners (i.e., publishers and songwriters) as royalties."[2] More information about CCLI's royalty distribution policies is available on the CCLI web site.[4] That page also says "Every year CCLI holds an Owner's Meeting for each region, where full details of License fees collected, and royalties distributed, are reported. Every song copyright owner participating in the Church Copyright License program is invited to the meeting for that region."

Copyright issues in worship[edit]

The performance of works in copyright (for example, playing music) as part of an act of worship is specifically exempted from copyright laws in several countries.[5][6]

Problems began to arise during the 1970s, when large numbers of new worship songs were written and became popular in many churches. Managing these songs was difficult, as churches typically used material drawn from a number of songbooks and new publications were released frequently. It became common practice for churches to either create their own songbook, to include songs on a service sheet, or to project the songs using an overhead projector. (Slide projectors were occasionally used in the early days. Today the use of a video projector is more common.) Each option required making a copy of the lyrics, an act which was in breach of copyright law.

The same issues arose for church musicians, who needed a collection of music books. Frequently, they resorted to photocopying music, which again is a breach of copyright law.

To undertake this legally would previously have required a church to obtain permission from all the copyright holders, a time-consuming and potentially costly process. CCLI has simplified matters by negotiating agreements with music publishers that enable them to issue licenses giving permission for words or music to be copied in return for a specified fee.

When a CCLI license is not needed[edit]

  • A CCLI license is not needed if copying of music is not undertaken by a church or other organization. For example, if a church just uses published hymnbooks or songbooks, then no license is needed.
  • If music is copied with the permission of the copyright owner (e.g., if a church goes to a publisher directly), then no license is needed.
  • No license is needed if all music is in the public domain or covered by something like the Creative Commons licenses. As an example, most sufficiently old hymns are in the public domain. CCLI maintains a list of songs that are in the public domain.[7] If all of the songs that an organization uses are in that list, then the organization does not need to pay the CCLI license fee. As of March 2015, CCLI's list contained nearly 24,000 public domain songs.
  • When a church has a license from another organization that covers the right to project songs.
  • When music is used that is not part of the CCLI catalog. Not every copyright owner has an agreement with CCLI to license their music. In these cases, a CCLI license cannot provide rights to copy music and the church must secure permission from the owner. This is usually the case whenever a member of the church writes music, though the member will typically give permission for their own church to use their music.


External links[edit]