Copyright Information for Churches

Copyright Resources

For more information on copyright and licensing for worship and other uses, visit:

Discipleship Ministries —  For resources and information on worship and music — Digital Ministry resources

General Council on Finance and Administration (GCFA) — video series on copyright

CCLI (Christian Copyright Licensing International) — — for information on music copyright laws or to obtain a music license — — copyright reprints for congregational songs

Christian Copyright Solutions 
CCLI also offers a streaming license. Learn more at


CVLI (Christian Video Licensing International) — — for information on video copyright laws or to obtain a video license



The copyright law is very clear on copying music. If you do not have express permission from the rightful owner of the song, you cannot make a copy. Many church music leaders who have made efforts to honor the law and have tried to obtain permission first from the copyright owner before making copies have found this to be a time-consuming challenge and in many cases, an administrative nightmare.

In order to copy music for church use, churches may purchase a license from CCLl (Christian Copyright Licensing, Inc.) Churches may also obtain permission for use of individual copy­righted pieces from producers.

A CCLI license allows you to do the following:

  • Print songs, hymns and lyrics in bulletins, programs, liturgies and songsheets for use in congregational singing.
  • Create your own songbooks or hymnals for use in congregational singing.
  • Create overhead transparencies, slides, or use any other format whereby songs are visually projected (such as computer graphics and projection).
  • Arrange, print and copy your own vocal or instrumental arrangements of songs for congregational use.
  • Record your worship services by audio or video means.
  • Reproduce accompaniment tracks.

What the license does NOT cover:

  • Photocoping or duplicating octavos, cantatas, musicals, handbell music, keyboard arrangements, vocal scores, orchestrations or other instrumental works.
  • Translating songs from one language to another. This can only be done with the approval of the respective copyright owner.
  • Renting, selling, lending, or distributing copies made under the Church Copyright License to individuals or groups outside the church, or to other churches. However, you may distribute tapes to shut-ins, missionaries, or others outside the church.
  • Assigning or transfering the Church Copyright License to any other church or group without CCLI's approval.

For CCLI membership information, visit 


Purchased or rented DVDs are for home use only. They may not be shown in public settings without permission. This includes even educational settings such as small groups, Sunday school classes, youth meetings, etc. Many videos produced for church use have public performance rights. Showing a video without public performance rights or the copyright owner's permission is illegal.

Through an agreement with studios and producers, the CVLI (Christian Video Licensing International) Church Video License provides legal coverage for churches and for other ministry organizations to show DVDs and videocassettes of motion pictures.

The CVLI license covers the following:

  • Pastors can use selected movies to illustrate sermon points.
  • Sunday schools and Youth Groups can view the latest videos.
  • Educational classes can use videos for teaching and training.
  • Churches can host special event movie nights.

This license covers manufactured DVD’s and videocassettes purchased, rented or borrowed. For full terms of the agreement, please see Terms and Conditions on the CVLI website.

This license does not cover materials that have been copied from another source or recorded from television. It also does not cover charging an admission fee for video showings or where specific titles have been advertised or publicized.

Information about CVLI can be found at

Webcasts/Live Streaming

As a church you are free to stream video and audio from any of your worship services without the need for a special license. However, to webcast any copyrighted music used in the service, you will require a music-streaming license.

Church exemptions do not cover the webcasting of copyrighted music, but this need not be a barrier to you making your worship services available over the internet.

Christian Copyright Solutions provides a WORSHIPcast license, visit

CCLI also offers a streaming license. Learn more at

Audio Recordings

Tapes may be copied of a worship service and distrib­uted if the tape does not include a performance of copyrighted music (unless a CCLl license has been purchased) or other copyrighted material such as a dra­matic reading. You must turn off your taping ma­chine while copyrighted music and/or dramatic readings are being performed if you do not have permission. If the service includes any copyrighted material, written permission must be obtained from the publisher before taping.

Video Recordings

Video recordings of worship that include a performance of copyrighted music or other copyrighted mate­rial such as a dramatic reading come under the same restrictions as audio recording. All permission for the video recording of such performances must be ob­tained before video recording.

Curriculum and Books

Curriculum and books are protected by copyright laws. No curriculum, whole, or in part, or pages from books should be copied without permission from the author or publisher. Some curriculum pieces give permission to copy "reproducible" sheets.


Most Bibles allow the copying and quoting of scripture. The King James version, published in 1611, is in the public domain and may be quoted extensively. However, the Revised Standard Version as well as all other new versions are not in the public domain and are, therefore, copyrighted. Permission to quote or copy Scripture from these translations is usually located in the front of the Bible. Following the guidelines that are given in these translations, you will find information on how to quote or display Scripture from any Bible version to use in a worship service. This includes worship bulletins, banners, church newsletters, Sunday school instructional material and overhead transparencies. When you are quoting from Bibles other than KJV, the quote must conform to the text - including appropriate spelling, punctuation, capitalization and special text formats - and the source must be indicated.


Copyrighted cartoons are given the same protections as written text. You must receive written permission to copy.