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When CCLI started licensing UK churches in 1991, few could have predicted the extent to which the internet, email and digital media would transform our lives.

The world has changed considerably and the church is no stranger to using the new technology in its offices, services, activities and outreach.

Today’s church musicians may still use songbooks, but they are just as likely to read music from a PDF downloaded from a publisher’s website. Sheet music is increasingly shared by email or via a network of screens. The OHP is in serious decline, more likely replaced by a clever projection system containing song lyrics downloaded from the internet.


The Church Copyright Licence (CCL) and Music Reproduction Licence (MRL) were created long before the communication innovations we now regard as commonplace. So are they still meeting the needs of the technology-engaged church?

Overwhelmingly, the answer is ‘Yes’. However, it has been necessary to review the terminology used in our licence agreements and associated documentation.

The way customers are required to report song reproduction is also undergoing a major overhaul. We’re moving from booklets and software to an Online Reporting system that asks churches to report against different categories, sometimes called fixation categories.

What’s a fixation?

A fixation is simply the way in which a created work, e.g. song, poem, picture etc., has been fixed in a tangible form.
CCLI needs to know the method used to reproduce the fixation, e.g. Print, Digital or Translation.

We’ll send you full details about Online Reporting at renewal, or you can visit if you wish to transition sooner.

So what’s changing?

In the past churches have been asked to report under the fixation categories of Print, Project and Record under the CCL, and Photocopy and Customised Arrangement under the MRL.

With the introduction of Online Reporting these fixation categories are changing, new ones are being introduced and Customised Arrangement moves from the MRL to the CCL.

Church Copyright Licence (CCL):


This covers the reproduction of a song in a service sheet, OHP acetate, bespoke hymnbook or hymnsheet, weekly bulletins etc.

This category now also includes Customised Musical Arrangements


This covers the use of digitally stored songs, e.g. projected during services, and sharing of songs, e.g. as PDFs sent by email.

Note: Sharing digital copies of commercial publications such as songbooks, sheet music, PDFs etc. is not covered by this licence.


 This covers the audio or video recording of live music during services of worship.


This covers the translation of song lyrics into another language provided the song’s publisher does not already make the song available in that language.

Music Reproduction Licence (MRL):


This covers reproduction from commercial publications such as hymnbooks and PDFs purchased online. This might be by photocopying, digital scanning etc.

This licence also permits digital copies of these reproductions to be shared with others within the licensed church via email or a device-based system.

Changes to the Reporting Process

In the past, churches have been asked to complete an annual report detailing the songs and publications reproduced under the terms of their licences. With the introduction of Online Reporting, churches will be asked to report regularly, ideally weekly.

Whilst this clearly places a different onus upon the church, it needn’t be borne by just one person. As well as desktop computers, Online Reporting can also be accessed via tablets and smartphones and a church can appoint any number of people to be reporters, thus sharing the responsibility.

We’ll send you full details about Online Reporting at renewal, or you can visit for further information.

The Digital World

What do these changes mean for the church? The purpose of CCLI’s licences has always been to enable churches to function without having to worry about copyright infringement. Our licences continue to do this but we have updated licence terminology to match the needs of a digital age.

Here are some common examples.

The digital song library

Many churches now store copies of songs on a computer or online library.

Provided each song in the library is appropriately reported, CCLI’s licences permit this method of song storage.

However, it should be noted that our licences do not permit a church to share any licensed resources with other churches.  That means that if a church’s library is stored online it should be password protected and only members of the licensed church can be permitted access. Consequently, the password must be changed when relevant people leave the church to prevent continued access.

Song Lyrics

If you only store copies of song lyrics and/or your own musical arrangements of songs, the CCL is sufficient to cover your digital library.

Commercial Music Publications

If your library includes PDFs of pages scanned from hymnbooks, copies of music legally obtained from publisher websites or any other format where you are reproducing the publisher’s typography you will require both the CCL and MRL.

Reporting Songs

  • If you reproduce electronically or project song lyrics from your library, report this each time you do so under Digital
  • If you reproduce your own musical arrangements of songs, report this under Print
  • If you make photocopies or scan from commercial music publications/downloads report this under the MRL as Reproduce when the songs are first saved to your library. You only need to report this when the copy is first made. Later on, if you subsequently copy them into other formats for use in services, you will need to report them again, according to the type of reproduction you’ve made.

Music delivered electronically to musicians

Many churches now employ computer-based systems to deliver music in sync to all their musicians, for example using websites/software such as OnSong.

Where the content is only lyrics your CCL covers this. If you are sharing copies made from commercial publications (scans from hymnbooks or PDFs bought from publisher websites) you will also need the MRL and must report how many copies were made.

It’s important to remember to separately report all songs reproduced for your musicians on these systems under the Digital category in addition to reporting any reproduction of the song for the congregation (i.e. the reproduction of words in a service sheet or projected for the congregation to follow).

Sharing digital song files

If a service leader circulates copies of song words by email this is covered by the CCL. If the Worship Band leader circulates copies/scans from commercial publications this is covered by
the MRL.

Written by David Churchyard

Related Article

Copyright Q&A: Typography and the MRL: Find out why copyright exists in typography (the typesetting of a printed page) and why the MRL is not just a licence to photocopy songbooks.