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CCLI building2

In our recent survey, a number of our customers asked to know more about how CCLI works and what happens with your licence fees.

CCLI is hugely grateful to the many thousands of customers worldwide who completed the survey. Not only did your answers provide helpful feedback about our licences and services, they also offered us greater insight into the life and health of the Church. Knowing more about you – the people who serve the worship ministry and administration of their congregations – is invaluable in understanding how churches operate and how CCLI can help to meet their needs.

So now we know a little more about you, it’s time to tell you a little more about CCLI.

Most who know anything about CCLI will probably understand that we help our licence holders legally access songs and worship resources. But how do we do that? How do we know who to pay your licence fees to and, perhaps most importantly, why are we necessary?

CCLI in numbers

A few simple figures provide an insight into the work of CCLI. Formed in 1988, CCLI now serves more than 250,000 churches, schools and Christian organisations worldwide. We represent over 3,000 rights holders (song owners and publishers) with a combined catalogue of more than 300,000 hymns and worship songs authorised under the Church Copyright Licence. It’s this comprehensive coverage that enables CCLI to offer a simple and cost-effective alternative to obtaining permission from individual rights holders each time you wished to use their work.

Today CCLI operates in the USA, the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, the Nordic countries, South Africa, Australia, South America and Korea. From our offices in Eastbourne, we serve some 24,000 churches and a similar number of schools in the UK and Ireland.


Above: The areas of the world in which CCLI currently works.

So why did CCLI start and are we really necessary?

CCLI was established to provide a copyright solution for churches wanting to reproduce the words of hymns and worship songs at the time when overhead projectors and photocopiers began to replace the old ‘hymnbook for every member of the congregation’ model.

As churches began to adopt other new technology into their activities, the opportunities to infringe copyright law multiplied. CCLI responded with copyright solutions for the public performance of films and music, photocopying, making audio/video recordings and obtaining worship resources from the internet.

Today, our understanding of the church, copyright law and the myriad of other copyright organisations means that we have become an authority on all areas of church life where copyright may be a consideration. In our recent customer survey, the overwhelming reason churches gave as why they hold copyright licences was “to do the right thing both morally and legally”. Without CCLI, ‘doing the right thing’ would be a much more complicated and expensive task.

Copyright law protects both the moral and economic rights of the owners of creative works. That means that churches need permission to reproduce or perform any creative work that is in copyright. Contacting the individual owners/publishers of songs, publications, films and music recordings every time you wanted to reproduce or perform them would be a huge administrative challenge. CCLI exists to make things simple.

So how does CCLI work?

Put simply, CCLI collects licence fees from our customers and carefully apportions this revenue between the many songwriters, owners and publishers with whom we have agreements.

But of course, it’s not that simple! Behind the scenes our global Intellectual Property team work tirelessly to register the new songs and publications that are submitted from rights holders across the world on an ongoing basis. Since copyright law differs from region to region and different publishers may own or administer the rights for different territories, this can be a painstaking process. Add to that the many co-writes and adaptations that sometimes exist for the same song and you quickly build a picture of the size of this task.

CCLI's UK IP team

Above: CCLI’s UK Intellectual Property department work with a global team to accurately apportion royalties to rights holders all over the world.


But it doesn’t end there! CCLI also provides a video licence through its shared ownership of Christian Video Licensing International with the Motion Picture Licensing Corporation (MPLC), as well as administering licences for churches on behalf of PRS for Music, Phonographic Performance Ltd (PPL) and the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA).

But how does CCLI know who to pay?

That’s where you come in. CCLI relies on the reports submitted by our customers, detailing the songs they’ve reproduced, the music they’ve played and the copies they’ve made. Reporting is a requirement for four of the six licences currently provided by CCLI in the UK. Only the PRS for Music Church Licence and Church Video Licence do not require reports, and for these CCLI pass on the ‘royalty pot’ to PRS for Music and MPLC whose own systems administer the royalties due to rights holders.

CCLI are very grateful for the time and care taken to complete reports. Without them, CCLI simply couldn’t operate effectively. If your church or school doesn’t currently report, please visit the reporting page of our website to find out how to start.

Twice a year, CCLI’s Intellectual Property team then takes the data from customer reports and uses it to apportion royalties to song and publication owners worldwide.

As an organisation that was born out of a desire to serve the church, CCLI staff work hard to ensure that our systems and processes are professional, efficient and up-to-date. Through our relationships with other collecting societies in the UK, we know that our work is respected by much larger copyright organisations. Whether we are speaking with a large international publishing house or a small rural church, our intention is to demonstrate our Christian values in everything we do.

You can find out more about the history of CCLI here.