Jesus Made a Whip for People who Charged Money to Worship

I am not a legal scholar, but it has always bothered me that there is an organization that helps churches “obey the copyright laws” in order to sing worship songs. I can’t imagine King David imposing a fee in order to have permission to sing one of the psalms the Lord gave him to sing. So, I looked up the law as written in the US Copyright Code. Was I surprised! It seems to me that the writers of the law CLEARLY EXEMPTED WORSHIP SONGS from copyright infringement. Read it for yourself from the letter I sent to CCLI in 2000 and again in 2001. I never got a reply from their legal department. 

Disclaimer: Since I am not a lawyer, I cannot give you advice as to what you should do about this. Nor do I have the time or finances to take on an organization that probably makes more than 20 million dollars a year from churches for “copyright protection.” Furthermore, as I mention in the letter, I suppose there are occasions when such copyright protection is necessary (i.e., song sheets for a choir). So, consult your own copyright attorney. If I do ever get a coherant answer from CCLI, I’ll be glad to inform people of its contents. 

Legal Department 
17201 NE Sacramento St. 
Portland, OR 97230-9908 

Dear Sirs, 

I recently received some information about CCLI. In the correspondence, your company implies that it is not legal to perform or display copyrighted Christian worship songs during and for church worship services. Your organization, therefore, provides copyright clearance protection for as long as an individual church pays for its license. Your letter also stated that once a church stopped paying for its protection, the songs it had copied were no longer legal. 

I am no legal scholar. Yet, as I read the language of the US Copyright Code, Title 17, section 110, paragraphs 3 and 4, it seems that a church can legally sing and display music in the course of a church service or other religious assembly: 

US Code 

Title 17, Sec. 110. Limitations on exclusive rights: Exemption of certain performances and displays 

Notwithstanding the provisions of section 106, the following are not infringements of copyright: 

(3) performance of a nondramatic literary or musical work or of a dramatico-musical work of a religious nature, or display of a work, in the course of services at a place of worship or other 
religious assembly; 

(4) performance of a nondramatic literary or musical work otherwise than in a transmission to the public, without any purpose of direct or indirect commercial advantage and without payment of any fee or other compensation for the performance to any of its performers, promoters, or organizers, if – (A) there is no direct or indirect admission charge; or 

(B) the proceeds, after deducting the reasonable costs of producing the performance, are used exclusively for educational, religious, or charitable purposes and not for private financial gain, except where the copyright owner has served notice of objection to the performance under the following conditions; 
(i) the notice shall be in writing and signed by the copyright owner or such owner’s duly authorized agent; and 
(ii) the notice shall be served on the person responsible for the performance at least seven days before the date of the performance, and shall state the reasons for the objection; and 
(iii) the notice shall comply, in form, content, and manner of service, with requirements that the Register of Copyrights shall prescribe by regulation; 

I recognize that there might be other types of uses of Christian music which might not fall under these paragraphs and, as such, it would be necessary to engage in your organization’s services. But, could you tell me why it would be necessary to use your protection service if a church is simply singing worship choruses that are displayed on an overhead projector? Is there another part of the copyright code that makes this type of use illegal? And if so, could you please quote it to me, so that I am not in error? 


Chip Crosby 

Notice the last section in the Copyright Code quoted here: it is up to the individual artist to write a protest against using their songs in a particular church. What real Christian worship leader or song writer would not want their music freely sung to the glory of God?