The Sounds of Summer

May 19, 2015

Music greatly enriches a myriad of Summer activities for churches and camps, but music PERFORMANCE RIGHTS and licensing are often overlooked when planning summer programs. PERFORMANCE licensing is an important building block in any church, ministry or camp’s copyright compliance plan, but it can sometimes be confusing and frequently misunderstood.

The U.S. Copyright Law regarding playing and performing music is quite clear, and it is actually very simple and inexpensive for churches, camps and ministries to address their performance licensing obligations…with the PERFORMmusic one-stop License.

As one of six exclusive rights of copyright owners, performance rights represent a fairly simple concept, but is often misunderstood. So we will establish some basic understanding about how performance rights impact church and camp activities.

Here are some brief definitions to help lay the groundwork for understanding. First, according to U.S. Copyright Law, the legal definition of a performance is:

…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.”

Most church and camp performances fit those criteria.

A performance license grants permission to play or perform music in these public settings, whether it is a live performance or playing of music from a recording. Performance licenses are controlled and managed by performing rights organizations (PROs); the three U.S. PROs are ASCAP, BMI and SESAC. Every songwriter and publisher who wants to be paid performance royalties is registered with at least one of these three organizations, which represent more than 19 million songs. PROs collect performance license fees for a wide range of uses, from Internet, radio and TV broadcast to stadiums, stores, bowling alleys, restaurants, camps, and other facilities like churches.

Religious organizations may qualify for an important exemption in the U.S. Copyright Law (section 110[3]), but it is vital that church leaders understand which performances qualify for the exemption and which do not. According to the exemption, the following performances are not infringements of copyright:

“Performance of a nondramatic music work or of a dramatico-music work of a religious nature, or display of a work, in the course of services at a place of  worship or other religious assembly.”

It is important to note that this exemption specifically applies to performances that take place during a worship service at a place of worship, it DOES NOT exempt churches or camps from the requirement for performance licensing outside of services.

There used to be only a couple ways to obtain music performance licensing for your church or camp:

  1. Contact each individual song owner and/or publisher directly to obtain permission and pay royalties for each song use.
  2. Go to the individual Performance Rights Organizations (PROs) and get an annual license from each one (ASCAP, BMI and SESAC), sign three agreements, pay three fees and submit three reports.

Now that ASCAP, BMI and SESAC have partnered with CCS, it’s so much more SIMPLE and EASY to get comprehensive coverage in place for any song you want to play or perform by just signing up online.  CCS’s PERFORMmusic Blanket License offers one annual covers churches for more 19 million Christian, secular, seasonal and patriotic songs in the catalogs of ASCAP, BMI and SESAC for an entire year. Fees start at $199 annually and there is no reporting required (except for ticketed concerts). This is the ONLY church and ministry performance blanket performance license available in the U.S. For more information, call and talk with a CCS rep at 855-576-5837.

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

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