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Are We Violating Copyright Law?

Take this quiz to make sure you're staying within the guidelines.

Are We Violating Copyright Law?

Worship music and websites are two places were churches may infringe on copyright law if they’re not careful. Use this checklist to gauge how your church is doing at following good guidelines.

Download a PDF version of this checklist.

There are two primary areas churches may need to consider when it comes to intellectual property and copyright issues.


The first and most common relates to music usage. Many churches like to record their worship services, project words on an overhead, or create their own songbook. Without the proper license, all of these activities are illegal.

Most of us have heard of or are members of CCLI, Christian Copyright Licensing International. As a member, you have permission to use over 150,000 songs in the context of ministry. A license will allow you to:

  • Record worship services
  • Project words on a projector or overhead
  • Print words in the bulletin or on a handout
  • Create a songbook
  • Create a database of songs on a computer
  • Audio or videotape a wedding or special service

Therefore, without the license, participating in any the above is a copyright violation.

The bottom line is ownership. Those who write and own the songs have a right to benefit from their use. The cost of license is based on the size of the church. For more information, go to www.ccli.com/US.aspx.


The second primary area involves video use. In essence, the FBI warning at the beginning of a rented video states that it is for home use. Showing a complete video outside of the home is considered a violation of the law.

Some have challenged this law citing the “Fair Use Clause” allowing nonprofits to use the video for educational purposes. However, it is smart to look into purchasing an annual license from Christian Video Licensing International (CVLI) and following their guidelines for usage (www.cvli.org).

This content is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is sold with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. "From a Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations." Due to the nature of the U.S. legal system, laws and regulations constantly change. The editors encourage readers to carefully search the site for all content related to the topic of interest and consult qualified local counsel to verify the status of specific statutes, laws, regulations, and precedential court holdings.

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  • April 30, 2020

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