Myth Solvers – Streaming Music

This week we continue our CCS Myth Solvers series focusing on another common myth, or misconception, regarding licensing required to play music from streaming services in church facilities. The music streaming landscape is rapidly evolving, so we always recommend reviewing the specific terms and conditions of any subscription service before streaming in a public place.

MYTH

I can stream music from Spotify throughout the church’s facilities if I have a paid subscription for personal use.

TRUTH

When you play music in a public place, like in church facilities, you need to obtain a performance license in order to legally play the songs. Performance licensing is required EVEN IF you have purchased music, or paid for a subscription streaming service such as Spotify, Pandora, Google Play, iRadio, or any other music streaming program.

The PERFORMmusic ONSITE Facilities License authorizes your church to play or perform over 20 million songs from the ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC catalogs anywhere in your facilities or church campuses. This license also covers when your musicians and singers perform a song live, or when you play music in any number of church events, facilities or venues.

US copyright law defines a public performance as:

“an instance of music being performed “in a place open to the public or at any place where a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances is gathered.”

With this legal definition in mind, streaming music and church performances, with the exception of during a religious service, fit the criteria as a public performance. The one exception is when music is played or performed in a religious service, which is exempt under the U.S. Copyright Law (Section 110[3]). The exemption states that the following are not infringements:

“…performance of a non-dramatic literary or musical work or of a dramatico-musical work of a religious nature or display of a work, in the course of services at a place of worship or other religious assembly” shall not constitute infringement of copyright.

In other words, you don’t need to get licensing or pay royalties for playing or performing music in a religious service; but you do need licensing for music performances outside of services such as exercise classes, coffee shops, seminars, church sound system, on-hold music, and concerts.

With this myth solved, we’re ready to tackle the next one. Leave a comment below or shoot us an email and we’ll address it in our next post. You can also talk with a copyright expert by calling 1-855-576-5837 or chatting with us online.

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.