Abiding by copyright laws is the way of life for the church.  Writing hymn and song text and music takes time.  If we want to continue to have good church music and music that relates to our times, we need to honor those who are creating these tunes and texts by abiding by copyright law.  Tools are available that make abiding by these laws a little easier.

If you have published hymnals or songbooks that are available for use for the people in the worship space, and you use these, you are following copyright laws.  When music is used that is not contained in these bound and published editions, permission must be obtained from the holder of the copyright or the publishing company that holds the administrative rights of the copyright.  Works in public domain are always available, but double check to make sure it is not currently protected by copyright.

The copyright information can generally be found in one of two places.  In some hymnals, the composer and authors are frequently noted on the page of the hymn with the copyright information in small print in a index at the back of the hymnal.  Other hymnals have all the information on the same page as the hymn or song.  Generally, the more recent the publication, the more likely all of the information is on the same page.

Through services such as Church Copyright Licensing International (CCLI), (OL), and (LS), you can obtain permission to copy melody lines and text for thousands of hymns and songs without buying books for the congregation to use.  The annual cost is based on the average Sunday attendance.  These services are typically easy to use.  The services have different publishing houses on their lists so you need to check the list on their websites before deciding which company will best meet your needs.

CCLI has many of the non-denominational publishing houses such as Integrity Music. has many protestant denominational publishing houses and is based out of G.I.A. Publications.  Included in its publishers are Augsburg Press, Church Publishing, and Abingdon Press.  LicenSing is based out of Oregon Catholic Press (OCP).  Some publishers work with more than one service.

If you have a special event--either a single service or a week long convention--you can get a license for a song or a collection of songs for that special event.  These are either flat fees or based on the number of participants expected for the event.

These licenses generally cover melody lines and text only.  The reprints can be on paper or by projection.  Copyright information needs to be included in the medium used.  The reprint permission license number will also need to be included in the copyright information.  For example:  Words and Music by J. Doe, Copyright © xxxx Publishing Co.  Reprinted under  License ####.  Specific instructions are given by the copyright permission service you choose to use.