Copyright Q&A for May 2014
Here is a question we received for our monthly Copyright Q&A feature. Answers are provided by Christian Copyright Solutions. Feel free to submit your questions to us. We answer as many as we can here on our site once a month.
Question: I’m confused. I thought ASCAP, BMI and SESAC are the only performance rights agencies in the U.S. but I was just told that, to create a CD of worship songs to help church members become familiar with the songs we’ll be doing for upcoming services, I need licensing from the Harry Fox Agency, too. Why do I need to license with all of these?
Answer: The short answer is: Because performance licensing and reproduction licensing are two different things, and they are handled by different agencies or administrators. Let’s look at both of these, and the licensing you need to cover your activities.
Let’s start with the creation of your CD. Reproducing worship songs in an audio recording format (whether CD or MP3 file) requires mechanical reproduction licensing - even if it is only to be given away for free to a small group.
The Harry Fox Agency represents most secular song publishers’ mechanical reproduction rights. Many Christian song publishers or their administrators handle the licensing themselves. You’ll need to contact them to set up an account. The amount you pay them to make your CD will depend on the length of each song you use and the number of copies you’ll create.
Performance licensing isn’t needed for the creation of your CD, but could come into play for your use of it once it’s been created. The Religious Service Exemption allows churches to play and perform music in the context of a religious service so performance licensing isn’t required to play your CD during services. However, if you play it outside of services - for worship team rehearsals, song seminars, social functions, youth events, etc. - performance licensing is needed.
You are correct in your understanding that ASCAP, BMI and SESAC are the only three performance licensing agencies in the United States. To simplify performance licensing for churches, CCS has partnered with all three PROs to offer churches and ministries one-stop licensing with the PERFORMmusic License, which covers all 17 million songs in the combined catalogs of ASCAP, BMI and SESAC.
The Christian Copyright Solutions answers provided are information, not legal advice. For more information and resources, including fact sheets, videos and idea kits, visit www.christiancopyrightsolutions.com. Use promo code “ABOUTWORSHIP” to receive 10% off your first-time purchase of the PERFORMmusic and WORSHIPcast Licenses.
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