10 Essential Things to Know About CCLI

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The name “CCLI” (Christian Copyright Licensing, Inc.) probably rings a bell if you’ve been involved in worship media or worship ministry for any amount of time. For most pastors, worship leaders, or media team members, CCLI may be generally known but only vaguely understood. So let’s dive in and look at ten useful things you should know about CCLI – from fun facts to potential benefits that will impact your ministry.

1. CCLI offers churches a way to license content like worship song resources, media, and other copyrighted material while fulfilling all legal obligations.

The purpose of CCLI is to provide an EASY way for churches to obtain licensing (permission) to use copyrighted material in their services. It may sound like a lot of trouble and too much like business to think of rights and royalties when utilizing songs and media content for worship services. It could be daunting to think about exactly how to pay all the appropriate artists, publishers, and other owners, but that’s where CCLI comes in. CCLI also actually serves to protect churches from the legal consequences of copyright infringement.

2. CCLI was founded by a local music minister at the prompting of a local pastor.

CCLI is a large, globally known organization now, but it began in a small form at the hands of a local music minister. In 1984, a pastor in Portland, Oregon, heard about a copyright lawsuit being waged against a group of churches in Chicago. This pastor wanted to be sure his own church was covered, so he set his music minister, Howard Rachinski, to the task. By a year later, Howard had taken his concept that allowed churches to obtain blanket permission for their activities and turned it into a company called Starpraise Ministries. It quickly grew and became Christian Copyright Licensing, Inc., which we know today to serve over 250,000 churches worldwide.

3. Paying for copyrighted material through CCLI supports artists and other ministers.

It may not seem personal when paying for licensing through organizations and businesses, but it actually is! Keeping on top of copyright is simply serving the real people on the other end of the line who are providing wonderful content that facilitates worship for churches around the world. Think of the songwriters who spend hours pouring into the beautiful songs that have become near and dear to our hearts and draw us to worship. CCLI provides an easy way to fairly compensate them for their very necessary work. After all, most of them are ministers just like the ministers who sing their songs in churches every week.

4. The pricing for blanket licensing through CCLI depends on the size of your church or organization.

CCLI’s licensing concept is that churches or organizations (like schools) are able to pay an annual fee to cover their use of copyrighted material for the entire year. This makes it much easier than paying on a song-by-song basis or a per-use basis for worship media resources used. And, it makes it less expensive because pricing is tailored to the size of each customer entity. For instance, a general CCLI Copyright License costs $564.00 annually for a church of 1,000 but is $462.00 for a church of 500.

5. It’s important to accurately report your usage of songs or other content covered by your CCLI license.

While the beauty of CCLI is that you pay only a certain fee annually instead of having to worry about paying for each song you use in worship, it is still important to report the songs you do use for your services each week (or make sure your automated reporting is working correctly). Many church presentations software products or planning and organization products like Planning Center Online offer reports that are easy to export or actually link with your CCLI account and report automatically. Accurate reporting ensures that the writers and copyright owners who are linked with your specific song and resource choices are getting compensated.

6. CCLI’s SongSelect service is a worship leader’s all-in-one dream tool.

Gone are the days of having to hand type or copy and paste lyrics to create slides for worship media. And searching online for chord charts and sheet music? That doesn’t have to consume your time anymore either! CCLI SongSelect combines these elements into a single source for lyrics, chord charts, and lead/vocal sheets. If you add SongSelect to your CCLI Copyright License, you can find just about any worship song you want, print the sheets in any key (or use digital copies), and then easily pull the lyrics into your worship software directly by logging in with your SongSelect account. SongSelect even integrates with organizational tools like Planning Center Online, so you can easily (and legally, with CCLI’s Rehearsal License) distribute these resources to your worship team.

7. What About Live Streaming?

In 2020 and beyond, live streams have been a much more important consideration for ministry. With copyright licensing even for live performance in worship services being complex enough, the thought of permissions for live streaming adds a whole new layer of complication. At least, it did before CCLI entered the scene again! In addition to a standard Copyright License, CCLI now offers a Streaming License to easily cover all of the worship services streamed and posted to your church website. With the Streaming Plus add-on, it even covers master recordings, such as for multitrack stems used for backing tracks with your worship band.

8. Phone and Email Support is available on CCLI’s website.

All of this sounds great, but there still may be lingering questions or “what if’s” that are unique to your organization or ministry. Maybe you already have CCLI and need help with something. If that’s the case, the good news is that CCLI is easy to get in touch with. On their website, you’ll find it’s easy to send their team a message or call in directly during their business hours for phone support.

9. CCLI offers video/film licensing and easy access to the video content itself.

Sometimes pastors may want to show video clips as illustrations for their messages or for context for a moment within a worship service. What may be little thought of is, this also requires copyright permission. But you guessed it, CCLI has a way to easily obtain coverage for that as well through their Church Video License. And it even goes a step further– with the ScreenVue service by CCLI, instant access to thousands of movies (from Christian, independent, and major Hollywood studios). It’s also a great platform to get ideas on film scenes other churches are already using that fit specific sermon themes, and the copyrights will be covered through the Church Video License.

10. A special event license is available for conferences or one-time gatherings.

If you are an event planner hosting a special event or maybe a yearly conference, for example, CCLI has a plan for you as well. Recognizing that the use of worship song resources would be totally different for this type of event than a church meeting weekly, CCLI offers alternative pricing that starts at just $38.00 for an event with less than 24 attendees, or $295.00 for an event with an attendance of 1,000.

If you want to learn more about CCLI, visit their website to access an in-depth knowledge base as well as video content explaining their basic services. As CCLI states on their website, understanding music copyright issues can be complicated and even confusing. But they provide an easy solution to become legally covered without having to be an expert in music publishing or copyright laws.

With this basic understanding of the services available through CCLI, your church or ministry will be ready to take action to ensure your church is equipped to take advantage of all the wonderful worship resources out there while fully honoring the writers and creators of the worship songs and media resources we all love to experience at church.

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