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Church Licensing Requirements

Church Licensing Requirements


Much of the legislation concerning licensing of premises for various uses is quite lengthy and sometimes very difficult to apply to church buildings.

This document aims to set out a step by step guide for church officers as they consider the various uses of their buildings.

The main reasons that you will need to have a licence are for:

  • Reproduction of hymns and worship songs
  • Music Reproduction Licence
  • Performing Rights Society
  • Mechanical Copyright Licence
  • Christian Video Licence
  • Phonographic Performance Licence
  • Public Entertainment Licence

Most licensing requirements can be provided for church use by the Christian Copyright Licensing International (Europe) Ltd (CCLI). Their contact details are included on the final page of this document.

Hymns and worship songs (lyrics and music)

Most churches will have the need to copy words and music of hymns and worship songs at various times each year.

CCLI are now recognised as the major licensing body for the reproduction of hymns and worship songs that are used during acts of worship.

It is possible for the licence to cover reproduction of lyrics and music to many popular songs and hymns. This reproduction can be done on overhead projector sheets and song sheets. It should also be noted that this licence allows for recording of services for church library use, weddings and funerals.

Performing Rights Society (PRS)

It is possible to obtain this licence from CCLI where the licence is to cover the performance of music on church premises other than music used in an act of worship.

These performances will include such things as discos, live concerts, dance classes, youth clubs and background music for things like coffee mornings.

If you intend to perform music outside of these it is recommended that you contact Performing Rights Society.

Public Performance Licence (PPL)

This licence is required in addition to the PRS for Music Church Licence if you play music from a commercial recording (CD, MP3 etc.) in church activities other than during Acts of Worship (regular services, weddings/funerals where no entry charge is made). A PPL Church Licence is not required to cover music on a film’s soundtrack.

Mechanical Copyright

CCLI’s Church Copyright Licence includes certain Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society (MCPS) rights which permit CCL holders to record services including live music performances. You should however ensure you have permission from any speakers, musicians or performers you’ll be recording.

If you record a service which includes music played from a commercial recording, this is known as dubbing, and you’ll need a Limited Manufacture Licence (LM) available directly from PRS for Music which covers rights administered by both PRS and PPL. See:

The LM also covers the recording of weddings, concerts and church choirs/bands. Although PRS for Music and PPL have waived the requirement for churches to hold licences for music played/performed during Acts of Worship, their church licences are required in addition to the LM if you are dubbing (re-recording) music during activities outside of Acts of Worship.

In addition, if you’re making church recordings available on the internet via streaming/webcasting or as a download/podcast you’ll require a Limited Online Music Licence available directly from PRS for Music.

Christian Video Licence

Churches that wish to show DVDs can apply for a licence through CCLI. The Church Video Licence provides legal cover to show videos and video discs of motion pictures. Cover includes playing just a few seconds of film all the way up to showing a full-length feature film. See contact details for CCLI.

Phonographic Performance (PPL)

You need cover from both PPL and PRS for Music when you play music recordings, because they cover different rights within the recorded work.

Where the church or venue is covered by PRS for Music adding the PPL Church Licence permits you to play commercial music recordings in a wide variety of contexts such as: Coffee Mornings, parent & toddler groups, fetes and bazaars, children and youth activities, discos and dances etc.

Public Entertainment

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport produced new guidelines in March 2015 in relation to public entertainment. As a general rule most church will not be required to have a licence for music entertainment or to put on a play or performance of dance so long as:

  • It takes place between 8.00am and 11.00pm
  • The audience is no more than 50 people.

However, some local authorities may require you to have a Premises Licence or Temporary Event Notice. A Temporary Event Notice can be used to authorise relatively small scale ad hoc events, held in or on any premises involving no more than 499 people at any one time.

Other regulated activities covered by this Act are: The sale of retail alcohol; The supply of alcohol; Provision of late night refreshment (after 11.00pm and before 5.00am).

The Licensing Authority will usually be your Local Authority and all premises are inspected by the Licensing Authority, Fire Service, Police, Health and Safety and a Environmental Health Officer.

NOTE: There may be other licence requirements that your church needs to be covered for, such as copying material from books (not music books), journals and magazines etc. If you are in doubt CCLI are usually happy to provide further advice.

CCLI, Chantry House, 22 Upperton Road, Eastbourne, BN21 1BF

Telephone: 01323 436100

A large print version of this document is available upon request. Contact Synod Office: 020 7799 5000

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