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News and Events

Congregation meeting together in a hall containing musical instruments

Churches that Meet in Third-Party Premises

There are many different shapes, sizes and expressions of church in the UK. CCLI endeavours to provide copyright licences that fit every church situation, but sometimes it is not so straightforward.

A good example of this is music performance licences for churches that regularly meet in premises which are not their own, for example at a school or community centre. The question is, who is responsible for ensuring an appropriate music performance licence has been obtained for activities that take place on those premises? (See footnote about Acts of Divine Worship)

Churches Meeting in Community Centres

Ordinarily, PRS for Music and PPL would expect the owner or manager of a Community Centre to ensure that the appropriate copyright licences are in place for all music performance activities that take place on their premises, most likely by means of a joint PRS for Music and PPL Community Buildings Tariff. In this case anyone who hires rooms within the Community Centre, including churches, will be covered by the Community Centre’s licences. You may find that a portion of the rent you pay is attributable to the cost of these copyright licences.

Churches meeting in Community Centres are advised to ensure the appropriate licences are in place. Find out more about the Community Buildings Tariff.

Churches Meeting in Schools

The situation for churches meeting in schools is a little more difficult to unravel. As with Community Centres, schools will generally be responsible for ensuring that the appropriate licences exist for activities that take place on their premises. However, schools tend only to be concerned with school-related activities and the licences they obtain from PRS for Music and PPL do not have the same scope as those obtained by Community Centres. In particular, they only provide very limited cover for third-party use.
The situation for churches meeting in schools is a little more difficult to unravel.

As with Community Centres, schools will generally be responsible for ensuring that the appropriate licences exist for activities that take place on their premises. However, schools tend only to be concerned with school-related activities and the licences they obtain from PRS for Music and PPL do not have the same scope as those obtained by Community Centres. In particular, they only provide very limited cover for third-party use.

A school’s PRS for Music licence (called Tariff EE) will cover all background music and the use of school premises by non-profit organisations (such as a church group) provided the attendance does not exceed 40 people. For all other situations in which music performance takes place, church groups should apply directly to PRS for Music for a licence. When doing so, be sure to make clear you are applying directly because you meet in a school, otherwise you will probably be redirected to CCLI.

The situation for PPL is slightly different. In addition to the PPL licence already held by the school, a further licence is not required by the church if sound recordings are only played during the service or during pre/post activities directly associated with the service, e.g. a post-service tea/coffee time. However, if the church uses the school premises for other activities during the week at which sound recordings are played, or the use of sound recordings before or after services is more than just for background music, then the church will require a PPL Church Licence, available from CCLI.

In Summary

Church meets in a Community Centre:

  • The Community Centre management is responsible for obtaining music performance licences from PRS for Music and PPL
  • The Church will be covered by the Community Centre’s licences for music performance
  • Other licences, such as the Church Copyright Licence (CCL) and Music Reproduction Licence (MRL) remain the responsibility of the church

Church meets in a School

  • The School is primarily responsible for obtaining music performance licences from PRS for Music and PPL
  • The School’s PRS for Music licence only covers third-parties (including churches) for background music and only when there are less than 40 people. If the church needs additional PRS for Music cover they should obtain a licence directly from PRS for Music
  • The School’s PPL licence will cover churches for background music played before/after Sunday services, but not for any other activities. If the church needs additional PPL cover they should obtain a licence from CCLI
  • Other licences, such as the Church Copyright Licence (CCL) and Music Reproduction Licence (MRL) remain the responsibility of the church

Any Questions?

If you are unsure about which licences your church may need, please contact CCLI.


Why Do I Need Licences From Both PPL & PRS for Music?

  • PPL collects and distributes royalties on behalf of performers and record companies for the use of their recorded music.
  • PRS for Music collects and distributes royalties on behalf of songwriters, composers and music publishers for the use of their music, whether played live or from a sound recording.

For example, when a live band plays a Beatles song during a gig, the songwriters and publishers of the song are each due a performance royalty. This is administered by means of the PRS for Music licence. If a DJ plays a recording of the same song from a Beatles’ CD, then the songwriters and publishers are still due a royalty (via PRS for Music) but so too are the performers on the recording and the record company that manufactured the CD. These two additional rights are administered by means of a PPL licence.

Therefore, in a live music performance situation you only need a PRS for Music licence, but where a sound recording is played in public (at a disco, on the radio, as background music in a foyer, etc.) an additional PPL licence is required.

More information about the differences between PRS for Music and PPL.


Acts of Divine Worship

For the sake of context, it should be noted that PRS for Music and PPL, entirely at their own discretion, do not make a charge for music performed during a recognised Service of Divine Worship in consecrated places of worship (of any recognised faith), where no charge is made to attendees for admission. Furthermore, at their discretion, PRS for Music and PPL would not make a charge for music performed during a Service of Divine Worship for a church meeting at a school or community centre.

However, churches that play background music after services, during coffee mornings and similar activities, at youth clubs, film clubs or social gatherings, or which hold music concerts/events etc. will most likely require music performance licences.

This article deals with situations where churches undertake activities which do require them to hold music performance licences from PPL and/or PRS for Music.

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