Wading into the Waters – An Update on Navigating Licenses and Copyright

Do copyright questions make your head spin? Here are some answers to frequent questions, prepared by Convenors Bruce Harding (BC) and Brenda McLay (Manitou)

? My copyright license costs have changed … why?

For the past decade or so, we have had three copyright licenses available to us for congregational song: One License, LicenSing and CCLI. In January 2017, One License merged with LicenSing, so now there are two options, One License (www.onelicense.net) and CCLI (www.ca.ccli.com). The upside of the merger is that you now have access to a much larger catalogue of music through One License. For churches that were already paying for LicenSing and One License licenses, you will see a cost saving with the merger, but if you only had one of these two licenses in the past, then your costs have increased. The annual subscription fee depends on the size of your congregation.

? What does my copyright license cover?

Your copyright license covers the reproduction of print music for all copyright holders registered with the licensing service. Your license gives you the right to reproduce song/hymn lyrics in your bulletin, to project lyrics on screen, and to make copies of music for your singers/instrumentalists. If you do not renew your copyright license, all music and lyric copies, digital and on paper, must be destroyed.

  • NOTE: One License and CCLI only cover the reproduction of print music and lyrics, they do not cover the performance rights for music.

  • NOTE: Published anthem octavos and organ/piano music etc. are not covered by OneLicense or CCLI – only congregational hymns and songs listed on the service are covered.

? Aside from paying my annual license fee, what are my responsibilities?

Paying your annual license fee is just the beginning! License holders are required to report use of music in your congregation (NOTE: copyright holders do not get paid unless you report use of their music). One License requires reporting of all music used every week, whereas CCLI only requires reporting of all music used during a six-month reporting period every 2.5 years.

? Do we need permission to sing or play music in worship?

For the purpose of worship, the performance of music, both live and pre-recorded, is copyright-exempt in Canada under SOCAN rules (SOCAN, www.socan.ca, is the Canadian performance rights organization that administers rights on behalf of copyright holders).

? Do we have to pay copyright to use secular music in worship?

No, again, SOCAN exempts copyright payment for the performance of music in worship.

? Do we need permission to sing or play music for other church activities outside of worship?

Outside of worship, e.g. for music used in concerts, dinners, coffee houses, conferences, etc., permission is required from the copyright holder. SOCAN offers annual licenses which cover performance of music for non-worship purposes – see www.socan.ca/licensees/apply for further information.

? What copyright permission is required to record or live stream worship services?

A decade ago, SOCAN extended the copyright exemption to also include recording (for distribution to shut-ins etc.) or live streaming of worship services. Since copyright laws are different in the USA, both One License and CCLI offer streaming licenses for an additional fee, but Canadian churches do not need to purchase this streaming/recording option.

? What copyright permission is required to post videos of anthems and other music on YouTube?

The copyright exemption for the purpose of worship does not extend to posting videos of music performances on YouTube and other online services – permission is required from the copyright holder.

? What if I have further questions regarding copyright in my congregation?

We at Music United, your music organization, are always happy to help with copyright questions and any other issues regarding music in United Church congregations. Visit us at www.musicunited.ca, or email info@musicunited.ca with your questions!

Lyricists and composers greatly appreciate and depend upon the support shown by congregations who have purchased a copyright license and report use of music.

The United Church of Canada produced a document in 2014 devoted to copyright questions regarding music, film, video, and other artistic works, which can be downloaded here. Very helpful information!

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One Response to Wading into the Waters – An Update on Navigating Licenses and Copyright

  1. Allan Baer says:

    Update – copyright information at the United Church of Canada.
    It seems that the last link given on this page has been changed. I’ve been able to find a viable link at http://www.united-church.ca/sites/default/files/handbook_copyright-guide-congregations.pdf

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