Projecting Excellence – Obeying Copyright Laws

Since this blog started in July, we’ve looked at a number of ways we can serve our congregations more effectively by making sure our projected lyrics are projected with excellence. So far we’ve covered line breaks, font size, keeping things in context, avoiding little mistakes, where to put the song title, not using all caps, and alignment.

One important topic we haven’t covered yet is what to do with the copyright information (i.e. author, copyright date, publishing company, etc.). This may not seem like the most exciting topic in the world – but it’s important that in everything we do, including trying to obey copyright laws, we’re seeking to honor God. There are rules to follow here, and choosing to ignore them or continue to be ignorant of them is a problem.

Step one: Get a CCLI license. Every church should have its own license, which costs a small annual fee, allowing it the freedom to duplicate song lyrics and music, project lyrics, record services, and more.  It is against federal law to copy song lyrics or music in any form without permission. This license is the easiest way to get that permission.

Step two: Before projecting lyrics to a song, find out the (1) song title, (2) author’s name, (3) year of copyright, (4) copyright notice (i.e. company), and (5) your church’s CCLI license number.

Here’s an example of how it should look from the CCLI website:
“Hallelujah.” Words and music by John Doe. © 2000 Good Music Co. CCLI License # 0000.

It’s not very difficult or complex.

Step three: Put all of that information on the bottom of the first slide of the song. It’s not necessary to put it on every single slide, and I’ve found that having it on the last slide means that the congregation begins to think that whenever the copyright information appears it means the song is almost over.

Here’s how it looks on our slide for the first verse of Stuart Townend’s song “Beautiful Savior”.

And a close-up.

On our slides, the font size for the lyrics is 38. The font size for the copyright information is 12, and centered in its own text box. This way it’s readable, fits on one line (most of the time), can be moved to a different slide if needed, and isn’t distracting.

You can read more about this in the FAQ section of CCLI’s website. Click here.  

8 thoughts on “Projecting Excellence – Obeying Copyright Laws”

  1. This is sad, but many churches in the Philippines or in any other non-first world countries are in violation of the copyright law.

    Either these churches are not aware of the copyright law or they know about it, they just don’t have the money to pay the license fee. One man from Myanmar who I met said, “we don’t have the money so we just copy songs right.”

    Only larger churches are able to afford the annual fee. Within one square mile of our immediate community called Ortigas Center there are three “megachurches”, our included, all of which are able to pay the fee.

    I guess, what larger churches can do is help the smaller ones acquire their license. That’s one good way of exercising Christian unity and charity.

  2. Jonathan — With the exception of southern Africa and Brazil, CCLI’s coverage is limited to first-world countries. For church services in countries outside of CCLI coverage (including the Philippines), I would not be surprised if the artists would waive their fee or allow use of their music for reduced or nominal fee. Maybe Jamie has some further guidance. As for your friend in Myanmar, he has bigger worries than copyright enforcement, and Myanmar has not signed on to the Berne Convention (which is basically an international regime of cross-border copyright recognition) so it appears that churches in Myanmar are technically not in violation of any copyright laws anyway.

  3. BTW I’m not a copyright lawyer, but just play one on this blog. I also like to miss modulations, making awkward moments for Jamie.

      1. Ah, as long as the missed modulation is a full step it doesn’t sound that bad, kind of Lydian and funky. It’s the missed half-step modulations that are the train wrecks coming around the corner . . . .

  4. Thanks for the information, Steven.
    This is very helpful.

    Being worship leaders of one of the larger churches here, the sole administrator/distributor of Praise& Worship and Christian contemporary music here in the Philippines have met with me and my team concerning this, and we do pay an annual fee for use of music.

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