In Layman's Terms: Displaying song copyright information

Todd Seifert


CCLI — Christian Copyright Licensing International —helps churches augment their worship services while keeping them compliant with U.S. copyright laws.

And, yes, those laws are complicated. I spent 20 years in the Fourth Estate, also known as the news industry. Copyright issues came up all the time — from us wanting to be above board on republishing content we thought would be beneficial to our readers to protecting content such as our larger projects from being used elsewhere without our permission.

CCLI works with music producers and composers to allow churches to project lyrics on screens and monitors, as well as reproduce lyric sheets for special events, such as a hymn sing or events such as Easter Sunday worship services. I’ve said this once, and I’ll say it again here: If your church does not have a CCLI license, you are putting your church at risk for legal actions that could cost you thousands upon thousands of dollars. Consider yourself warned.

Find pricing on a CCLI license on their website. The cost depends on your average worship attendance, which is accessible for review via the VitalSigns dashboard. Costs start as low as $62 per year for a congregation of less than 25 and peak at less than $230 a year for the vast majority of our Great Plains Conference congregations.

Those are small prices to pay for peace of mind and the avoidance of legal problems.

Over the next few weeks, I plan to dedicate my “In Layman’s Terms” blog to help you navigate some of the elements surrounding CCLI so you can get the most out of your annual subscription.

Let’s start with labeling the songs you project.

I hadn’t thought of this in a long, long time. But in CCLI’s recent newsletter, it listed five of its most-asked questions. Among them was if a copyright notice was necessary for all songs.
The answer is “Yes.” And thanks to this question, I realized I had been making life a little more difficult on myself than I have needed to for a couple of years now.

I have in my file cabinet a note to make sure I list the number of every CCLI song — basically its ID number — on a title slide for each song we project at events such as annual conference. In your case, it would be in your local church.

It turns out, the only number you have to project is your own license number. When I pause to think about it, this makes sense. We’re proving that we have a license to show this particular song via projection.

Here’s one example from our upcoming annual conference session. Spoiler alert: As we open Wednesday evening, we’re going to start by singing “Glorious Day.” Here’s how that song’s copyright information will be shown briefly on the screen:

“Glorious Day”
Lyrics and music by Jason Ingram, Jonathan Smith, Kristian Stanfill and Sean Curran
© 2017 Sixsteps Music
Used by Permission CCLI License #11114428

That license number belongs to the conference, and, no, your church can’t use it. These licenses are address specific, so each church must have its own license. The conference license covers our annual conference session and officially sanctioned conference events.

The good news here is you only need to post your license number.

And more good news: The copyright info can go either on the first slide or at the very end. This may help with the flow of the slides in conjunction with the flow of the worship service. So you have some flexibility.

I’ll confess that I don’t know if the display of the number has been this way all along. But my earlier notes indicate I once obtained information that each individual song’s number had to be posted. That is not the case.

That song number is still pretty important.

Next time: How to find that copyright information for your slide, and how to make sure a song is covered under CCLI.

Todd Seifert is communications director for the Great Plains Conference of the United Methodist Church. He can be reached via phone at 785-414-4224, or via email at Opinions expressed are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Great Plains Annual Conference or the United Methodist Church. Follow him on Twitter, @ToddSeifert.