At CCS, we often receive questions about what licensing is required to play music from streaming services in church facilities. One of the most commonly asked questions refers to using a personal subscription for church use:
Q: I pay my subscription for Spotify streaming service, but it’s only for my personal use. Can we play music from Spotify in our church coffee shop and throughout the church’s facilities?
A: When you play music in a public place, like in church facilities, you need to obtain a performance license, like CCS’s PERFORMmusic License, in order to legally play music. Performance licensing is required even if you have purchased music or pay for a subscription streaming service, like Spotify, Pandora, Google Play, iRadio, or any other music streaming program. It is important that you review the specific terms and conditions of any subscription services before streaming them in a public place.
Once you have obtained a PERFORMmusic License, which covers songs from ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC; you are authorized to play or perform 20 million songs in their catalogs anywhere in your facilities or church campuses. The license also covers when your musicians and singers perform a song live, or when you play music in any number of church events or venues.
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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.”
That is the legal definition and most church performances, with the exception of during a religious service, fit the criteria. 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). 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:
- Aerobics & Dance Classes
- Youth & Children’s Programs
- Social Events
- Coffee Shops
- Conferences & Seminars
- Church Sound System
- Camps & VBS
- On-hold Music
All of the above uses are covered by the PERFORMmusic License. If you’d like to learn more, you can call and talk to a copyright expert for a FREE 20-minute consultation at 877-394-5566 or chat live with one of our copyright experts right from our site.
5 Myths about the Religious Service Exemption
Interested in learning more about copyright law and how it affects your church? Enter your information here to download the 5 Myths about the Religious Service Exemption. It adds clarity to some of the top areas of misinformation regarding copyrights.
CCS’s Founder and CVO, Susan Fontaine Godwin is an educator and long-time member of the Christian arts community with 30 years of experience in the Christian media industry, church copyright administration, and copyright management. Susan is an author and speaker and frequently writes for several Christian magazines and online publications. She serves as an adjunct professor at the University of Mobile.
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.