Fall is in the Air and Legal Music Licensing Is a Breeze

November 2, 2015

Hayrides, bonfires, corn mazes, Thanksgiving feasts – fall is in the air! Is your church ready for worship around the fire, in the barn, or harvest parties? Worship and singing happens in the most unlikely of places. Make sure your church has music licensing covered so that all you need to worry about is making the S’mores and holiday decorations.

Special fall church programs can  often slide under the radar when it comes to licensing for music. There are a couple factors to consider:

1) Special events like fall programs and events are not considered a religious service and therefore do not qualify under the U.S. Religious Service Exemption.

2) Music for autumn celebrations often include secular, or non-Christian songs that are not covered by some blanket licenses, such as CCLI.

There’s an easy, simple and affordable solution with CCS’s PERFORMmusic License that gives you comprehensive and immediate coverage for 17 million songs.

Let’s look at the question of the U.S. Religious Service Exemption

The U.S. Religious Service Exemption allows you to freely perform or play music in your worship service. But did you know that many churches and ministries are at risk and out of compliance for performing or playing music in a non-exempt setting? In most cases, using copyrighted songs outside of religious services, requires performance licensing.

Let’s take a closer look at what the exemption states:

“…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.”

Confusion often lies in the way we think of performances. Many times, we think of them as formal presentations of some variety…a soloist, ensemble or choir. However, the performance licensing requirement is not limited to these situations. When congregations and smaller informal groups play or perform copyrighted music outside of a worship setting, they also require performance licensing, whether music is played by a professional string quartet or sung by an informal group full of amateur musicians.


Yes, CCS’s WORSHIPcast and PERFORMmusic Licenses include all of the 300,000 songs in CCLI’s catalog, plus an additional 19 million from ASCAP, BMI and SESAC. How does that work? Any songwriter or publisher who wants their songs to be eligible to collect performance royalties will register with one of the three PROs (performance rights organization), which are ASCAP, BMI and SESAC. If they are Christian songwriters and publishers, they may still also include their songs in the CCLI program.

What does that mean for churches? If you want to make sure you have comprehensive performance rights coverage for Christian, holiday, patriotic and secular music, the WORSHIPcast and PERFORMmusic licenses cover pretty much any song you may want to perform or play.

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 Pinterest. The information contained herein is for informational purposes only, and is not legal advice or a substitute for legal counsel.

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