Churches Planting Churches: 5 Tips to Establish Copyright Compliance

Today’s multi-site church movement is gaining traction throughout the U.S., and this ancient, early church model is multiplying in today’s digital world. A growing number of churches are planting new sites as an expression of spiritual reproduction.

“Studies and anecdotal evidence indicate that if there is one church per 10,000 residents, approximately 1 percent of the population will be churchgoers. If this ratio goes to one church per 1,000 residents, some 15 to 20 percent of the city’s population goes to church. If the number goes to one per 500 residents, the number may approach 40 percent or more. The relationship of the number of churches to churchgoing people is exponential, not linear.” —Tim Keller

There are ministries (like Converge) that are wholly devoted to helping churches successfully plant other churches. They provide many resources and even offer “Church Planting 101,” two-day practical training to learn the basics of church planting led by the Converge team of successful church planters.

Part of any successful church plant should include a solid foundation for copyright compliance. When a church is small and just getting started, there may not be as many copyright issues as a large church faces; however, establishing basic guidelines and policies can help assure compliance as you grow.

Here are 5 Basic guidelines to establish for a solid copyright compliance foundation:

1. Honor copyright owners. Understand why it’s important to be copyright compliant. Why do you think it’s important for the Church to honor copyrights? When church leaders or decision makers establish the commitment to BECOMING copyright compliant, it’s essential that they communicate the why, or the reason, behind copyright policies and procedures. It can really help to involve your teams and ministries in a unified approach to honoring copyrights. In our new 56-page eBook, we devote an entire chapter to that question and address seven key reasons for becoming copyright compliant. You can download “SOLVE THE PUZZLE OF COPYRIGHTS: Six Steps to Learning How to Do Music Right” for FREE and share with your team and other churches. You will learn the rationale for compliance from several perspectives, including legal, scriptural, ethical, witnessing and supporting songwriters. And you probably will want to add your own reasons to this list.

2. Church Blanket Licenses. Understand and fully utilize church copyright blanket licenses.There are five basic blanket licenses for churches that simplify and save time when obtaining permissions for your activities. You can instantly purchase these licenses online and get immediate coverage for the copyrights and uses authorized by the licenses. Read more details about blanket licenses. 

If you want to webcast or stream your program online, you’ll need a music internet performance license (CCLI streaming license covers more than 300,000 Christian songs, and CCS’s WORSHIPcast License covers more than 20 million Christian and secular songs.) A performance facilities and event license is necessary in order to legally play and perform music outside of religious services. CCS’s PERFORMmusic License covers more than 20 million songs from ASCAP, BMI and SESAC. 

3. Religious Service ExemptionThere aren’t many exceptions or exemptions to the U.S. Copyright Law, but churches can really benefit from the religious service exemption (RSE) in the law (Section 110[3]) if they fully understand it. The exemption is vital for churches, but it also can be very confusing for church leaders to understand and identify what it covers and what it does not include. There is a lot of misinformation or myths when it comes to the RSE, so I’ll break it down in simple terms and address common questions. For more details, download our FREE Fact Sheet.

4. Budgeting and Policies. Projected copyright licensing costs for ongoing weekly activities and major productions should be incorporated into annual budgets. Reviewing possible uses of copyrighted works in your special holiday programs and projects requires that you understand what creative works can be copyrighted and protected under U.S. Copyright Law.

It’s also important to make the church’s policies and procedures clear for staff and volunteers. This message must be internally communicated from the top down. Clear communication is critical regarding how to determine whether or not a copyright use is covered by a blanket license, or if it requires additional clearances. Depending on the size of your church, the communication may be within departments. Or if you’re a smaller church, you may have a more centralized means of reviewing and approving copyright uses. You can download a FREE “Church Copyright Policy Sample Outline” for an example of a church policies document.

5. Use the P.L.A.N. system for copyright clearances:

  1. P – Prepare a list of all copyrighted materials and uses
  2. L – Learn the basics on US Copyright Law and how it impacts church activities. Download our FREE Copyrights 101 Fact Sheet.
  3. A – Allow time to obtain licensing and permissions
  4. N – Never use copyrighted material without permission

About Christian Copyright Solutions: CCS’s quest is to help churches and Christian ministries “do music right.”  CCS is an expert on church music copyrights and our primary focus is providing licensing and clear educational resources to churches, as well as representation, administration and advocacy for copyright owners. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Youtube. The information contained herein is for informational purposes only, and is not legal advice or a substitute for legal counsel.