How music performance rights and performance rights organisations apply to churches

As noted in how copyright considerations apply to church services there is a convention which lets churches "perform" music inside a church service without needing a performance licence.

However many churches also to perform or play music outside of worship services, eg in the foyer over coffee, as background muzak in the telephone system, at wedding receptions, etc.   In most countries, churches need to buy a performance licence to do this legally, just like any other community group or business.

Church-copyright-organisations do not usually manage performance licences.

Instead, these licenses are handed by Performance Rights Organizations (PROs).  A list of these organisations for English-speaking countries is below.

United States


United Kingdom



New Zealand







For information about other countries, consult the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (CISAC):   this is an umrella organisation for various copyright organisations, across various formats ( music, drama, literature, audio-visual, graphic and visual arts), so their directory include performance rights organisations and various other rights groups.

Note that this is a list of performance rights organisations, and that performance usually includes playing CDs, DVDs, etc in public places.

Permission to make recordings or to use music in other works is usually handled by reproduction-rights organisations.

Advice on is general only:  for specific legal advice, consult a lawyer.

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  1. A major international copyright agency specifically for churches and Christian organisations is CCLI, or Christian Copyright Licensing International. The church pays yearly for an appropriate license for their situation and then presuming you use songs from the CCLI song list (which is very extensive, primarily Christian contemporary songs), your copyright concerns are dealt with. The organisation has requirements as to display (you are to insert CCLI song numbers on your display or printed matter) and reporting requirements (so you must keep records of the CCLI songs you use) but this has been a God-send for many churches using contemporary worship songs. Here's a link:

    1. Thanks for your comment.

      Actually, CCLI are not a performance rights organisation, so cannot help with the rights to play / perform works. Instead, they are a church-copyright-organisation, and I've just published an article explaining what they do:


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