Here’s the next question that I sometimes get from you church musicians and pastors out there. This one is about copyright. I’m sure many of you will relate to the question posed.
I am looking for an answer to why I might need both a CCLI license and One license? I have tried asking representatives from each organization what they cover, and both have been very vague in what all is covered and how I can discover that, but both have been pretty insistent that they cover more and are the license I need. The church is looking at tightening the budget and is questioning my paying for both. Any insight is appreciated.
Your friendly church musician
Dear friendly church musician,
Thanks for reaching out. Your question is not uncommon. The world of music copyright can often be confusing, vague, and frustrating. Depending on what your church sings (and how they sing), the answer to your question will be different. From my understanding and experience, CCLI and OneLicense do not have very much overlap of what songs they cover. However, 99% of what most churches typically use on a Sunday morning will be covered by one or the other.
Here are some questions you’ll need to answer before knowing what is the best way forward:
- Do you print music or words in a bulletin, project them onto a screen, and/or stream online? If yes, keep going. If no (like “we only sing music from our hymnals in the pews”), then you most likely do not need either license.
- Was the music OR words you use in your bulletins/screens/recordings generally written after the 1920s? If no, you’re using all “public domain” music and you don’t need a license. If yes, you’re using music that is most likely copyrighted and you’ll need a license to print/project/record it.
- What music do you typically print, project, or record? This is where it gets dicey about which license you need.
- If you use CCLI top 100 music (and things that generally sound like those songs from companies like Capital, Integrity, Hillsong, Bethel, Elevation, etc…), you’ll need a CCLI license. For a list of publishers covered by CCLI, click here.
- If you use music that is more “hymn-like” or is specifically Roman Catholic (and things that generally sound like those songs from publishers like Hope, GIA, OCP, etc…), you’ll most likely need a OneLicense. For a list of publishers covered by OneLicense, click here.
- If you use both types of music, unfortunately you’ll most likely need both licenses.
- **There are tons of different kinds of music and sources** So if you use music from other places around the world or from individual artists who aren’t widely published, things begin to get a bit more nebulous and often needs to be taken on a case-by-base basis. The larger exceptions to this are if you use music published by Taize or the Iona Community, both of which are administered by GIA Publications in the U.S. and would be covered via the OneLicense.
- If your music usage is not a clear-cut as the questions above, you’ll need to look at the individual songs and copyright holders to see which license(s) you’ll need. After sharing what you typically sing/do on a Sunday service, I can pretty quickly advise you on how to move forward.
- Finally, thank you for caring enough about the artists and companies that make this music available to do the right thing. Paying license fees and reporting your usage is how the artists ultimately get paid for their work. Your effort is appreciated and needed.
For more information on basic copyright information for churches, here are a few good articles:
***DISCLAIMER – This article is offered as a (hopefully) helpful resource for those seeking to navigate the legalities of church music copyright. The advice offered here is not legal advice and the author nor The Hymn Society in the United States and Canada cannot be held legally responsible for any decisions any individual or church makes concerning copyright law.***
One thought on “Questions for the Director – CCLI or Onelicense?”
This is a great summary of the copyright law in America. Thank you for this!
Copyright law in other nations may vary significantly, but this summary works for most music published in America.
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