In Layman's Terms: Ensuring your songs are covered

Todd Seifert


As I shared in my last blog, I want to make sure our churches are getting the most out of their CCLI subscription so the people who put together worship slides are getting the most bang for their buck and so the church is protected.

Last time, I shared how to display copyright information either on the first or last slide of a song. Today, I want to make sure you know how to find that copyright information in the first place.
Once you have selected which songs or hymns you want to project for a worship service, you need to ensure these songs are CCLI-compliant, or covered under the law. Not every composer allows his or her music to be covered under CCLI, so don’t assume every song you want to use is allowed.

That even applies to United Methodist hymnals. The official “United Methodist Hymnal” is completely covered. But our supplements — “Faith We Sing” and “Worship & Song” — are not. So, how do you know which songs are covered? It’s pretty simple. You can find out if the song is covered and find out the copyright information at the same time.

First, you need a free profile:

  • Go to
  • Click on “Sign In” at the top of the page. Then, click on “Your Profile.”
  • If you already have a profile, enter your email address and password.
  • If you don’t have a profile, click the “create” button at the bottom of the window and fill out your information. You then will be required to provide the 13-digit access code for the account with which you will be affiliated. This ensures you are using an active license. The administrator on your church’s account can look the access code for you in the “Active Users” area of the Profile page on the CCLI website.
Once you have access to a profile, you go to the CCLI website and see if your song is covered and, if so, you can find the copyright information.
  • First, look at the top navigation bar. Under “What We Provide” is a button for “Song Search.”
  • Click that button, and you go to a screen where you can type in the name of a song. Let’s say I want to use the song “Red Letters” by Crowder. I type the name of the song, and this screen pops up.
  • I click on the top one to see if that’s the song I have in mind and get the screen below. The sheet music, guitar chords and lyrics are available if you subscribe to what CCLI calls SongSelect. It costs a little extra, but if your church has a praise band, I think it’s worth it. Depending on which pieces you want, the cost is an additional $55 to $198 per year.
  • But if you don’t have SongSelect, simply scroll to the bottom of the page. Under “Lyrics Preview,” you’ll see the first few lines so you can make sure this is the song you wanted. Under “Additional Song Info” you’ll see the copyright information for your slide.

As an aside, there is a quick, non-techy way to find the copyright information as well. This information is usually listed at the bottom of a hymn or on the sheet music. But you still have to go to the CCLI website to ensure the song is covered.

So, what happens if you type in the name of a song in the Song Search area, and that song doesn’t pop up on the screen? Unfortunately, that means you have to choose a different song. Several songs in the “Faith We Sing” supplemental hymnal and, actually, quite a few songs in the “Worship & Song” supplemental hymnal are not covered at this time.

Do not assume that older songs are covered. That likely is true for songs up until the dawn of the 20th century, but U.S. copyright law extends the copyright for 70 years past the date of death of the composer. And if a group of people are credited with the writing, it’s 70 years past the death date of the last surviving part of the creative team.

Bottom line: Check every song — from the hymnal or from a contemporary artist — before deciding to use it in a worship service.

Next time: Showing movies and movie clips.
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.