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What are the rules on music copyright and licensing?

The Copyright Act of 1976 prohibits the unauthorized reproduction of copyrighted materials, including song sheets, overhead transparencies, bulletin inserts, and slides. Churches are not exempt from this law. Permission to use some copyrighted material may be secured from organizations like CCLI that have received licensing rights from various music publishers. Congregations who subscribe to these services receive the right to print local songbooks, songsheets, bulletins, transparencies, and slides compiled for congregational use from a variety of (but not all) publishers. Fees are reasonable and are based on average worship attendance. Some bookkeeping is required.

Christian Copyright Licensing International (CCLI) was established in 1988 to provide churches with simple, affordable solutions to complex copyright issues. CCLI helps churches maintain their integrity and avoid costly lawsuits, while also giving churches the freedom to worship expressively and spontaneously.

Previously published on gbod.org and ccli.com.

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