How the Religious Service Exemption Impacts Church Summer Music

May 12, 2016

Church programs benefit tremendously from the US Copyright Law’s Religious Service Exemption (Section 110{3}), but how does it impact a myriad of summer activities and events where music is featured?

Do churches need any kind of copyright licensing if the Copyright Law provides an exemption for religious organizations? Can music be played or performed in summer programs if they’re hosted on church property?

The Exemption is vital for churches, but it also can be very confusing for church leaders to understand and identify what it covers and what it does not include, especially when it comes to summer programs. There is a lot of misinformation or myths when it comes to the Exemption, so let’s break it down in simple terms and address common questions.

First, here is 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”.

Three Important Elements for Coverage

Types of Copyrights

Only musical works (lyrics and any accompanying music) and non-dramatic literary works (like poems, prose, short stories, books, periodicals) and dramatico musical works of a religious nature are exempt.

Types of Rights

Only “public performance” and “public display” of the works are exempt.

Download our FREE Copyrights 101 Fact Sheet for more details on Copyright Types and Exclusive Rights.

Location and Setting

During the course of services at a place of worship or other religious assembly.

In other words, you do not have to get permission from the copyright owner or pay royalties to PERFORM music or DISPLAY the lyrics of a work in a religious service. This applies to the “performance” and “display” rights, which are only two of the six rights of the copyright owner.

As long as services are being conducted at a religious service gathering, the Exemption will apply even if they are held in “non-religious” venues such as an auditorium, stadium or theater. The Exemption allows you to play or perform music, and this includes playing recordings of music.

The Exemption excludes and does not apply to performance activities at a place of worship that are for social, educational, fund raising or entertainment purposes, and many summer activities fall into this category.

But there’s no reason to curb your creativity or stop playing and performing music in your church’s facilities during the summer. Music goes better with everything, and CCS’s PERFORMmusic License allows you to legally play or perform more than 20 million Christian, secular and holiday songs throughout your facilities and satellite campuses.

One of the beauties of BLANKET MUSIC LICENSES is the simplicity, flexibility and many ways that they can be used throughout church life. CCS’s PERFORMmusic License makes it EASY for you to legally play and perform all songs from ASCAP, BMI and SESAC anywhere in your facilities (including satellite campuses) or property for all types of events or functions. The music catalog includes all genres of songs, including Christian, Christmas, holiday, patriotic, country, pop, rock, etc.

Church leaders often overlook the variety of ways that PERFORMmusic can be used, so we thought you’d like to see the many creative possibilities that PERFORMmusic opens up for your summer ministry and activities.

Youth Events

Summer is a great time for special youth programs, and whenever they gather and have fun, you can be sure that music is an important part of their fellowship. Whether playing music or a youth group band is performing, PERFORMmusic allows them to legally use Christian and secular music.

VBS and Children’s Music

Singing songs and playing music is an integral part of most VBS and children’s summer programs.

Concerts and Special Performances

Summer is the perfect time for churches to host music concerts and special events outdoors or inside your facilities, and with PERFORMmusic you can have PEACE of mind knowing you’re covered for any song. (Additional reporting may be required for ticketed events).

Camps and Summer Events

Music is often played and performed during summer camp activities and other events, so now you’re covered.

Fourth of July Celebrations

Many churches and ministries host special patriotic programs for the Fourth of July and often invite the surrounding community to join in the festivities. All your holiday and patriotic songs are covered.

Movie Nights

Special movie nights are a great way to expand fellowship times, and music is sure to enhance any gathering.


Featuring music at fundraisers and social events helps enrich these programs.

Social Dinners and BBQs

Dinner on the grounds, BBQs, summer potlucks? Feel FREE to play any music, or let your local talent perform their favorite music.

Music in Coffee Shops and Bookstores

Many churches have coffee shops and bookstores in their facilities, and NOW you can feature background music without worry.

Music on Hold

Even though you may have legally purchased music CDs or downloads, you need a performance license to play them through your phone systems. PERFORMmusic covers that too!

Aerobics & Dance Classes

More and more churches are opening their facilities for aerobics and dance classes, and playing music in these classes requires performance licenses…just one more activity that’s covered by the PERFORMmusic License.

As you can see, the possibilities are LIMITLESS when it comes to playing and performing music in your church facilities. Sign up today...coverage is IMMEDIATE! And when you purchase CCS’s BUNDLE License you  get comprehensive coverage for music performances both ONSITE in your facilities and ONLINE streaming, plus you get 10% OFF the first year’s annual fee.

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

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