Church Copyright Organisations - making photocopying legal for churches

An explanation of church-copyright organisations and what they do, a listing of ones that are particularly relevant for liturgical churches, and information about options in countries not covered by a CCO.

What are Church Copyright Organizations

Church-copyright organisations (CCO's) are bodies (usually commercial companies) that sell licences which let churches make legal copies of the words, and sometimes the music, of hymns and songs which are still copyright.

Today, some also offer licenses that allow web-streaming, making practice/demo CD, and various other ways of sharing copyright materials.

What Church Copyright Organisations do

CCOs negotiate with music-publishers and other copyright owners and reach agreements about how much money the copyright-owner will get for each reported use of their words or tunes. Once they have an agreement, the works of that copyright owner are "covered" by the licences which the CCO sells to parishes, schools and other church organisations.

reaching agreement with thousands of publishers, and hundreds of thousands of local churches - to buy copright licenses and pay usage-based royalties

Key points about church-copyright licenses:
  • Most CCOs only cover a limited number of countries - see below for a list of the most common ones in English-speaking countries, and the countries they cover
  • No one CCO or license includes all hymns, songs.
  • The songs & hymns that are covered can change over time, as the CCO's agreements change or when the rights to a lyrics, tune or arrangements are sold.
  • All licences have terms and conditions. These may limit what you can do with the copies, or require you to report back to the CCO about the hymns/songs you used.

Church copyright organisations for liturgical churches

The major CCOs that cover materials which are useful to liturgical churches and which sell licences allowing churches, schools and religious communities to reproduce hymns and songs in church services are:

CCLI (Christian Copyright Licensing, Inc.)

This is the largest CCO, and offers licenses in many countries.  It has a very strong marketing presence, and many people think it is the only option.

However, they are strongly geared towards evangelical / pentecostal / contemporary-Christian-music style churches.   At the time of writing, their licences do not include material from many publishers / composers whose work is used by more liturgically-focussed churches, for example GIA Publication (most of the St Louis Jesuits, Bernadette Farrell) or Taizé.


(Previously called - now incorporating LicenSing - International Christian Resources, LLC  and Word of Life International )
Covers GIA Publications, OCP, Wild Goose (WGWG / Iona), Willow Publications, Kevin Mayhew, Veritas, Taizé, Alfred Publication, and many, many more publishers - in the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand - and from mid 2019 the UK, Ireland and (some of) continental Europe.

Primarily serving Roman Catholic and mainline / liturgically-oriented Protestant churches

Decani Music

The Calamus licence covers GIA Publications, Taizé, Kevin Mayhew, McCrimmons, WLP, OCP and others in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

What if there isn't a CCO for my country?

If you cannot find a church-copyright-organisation that licenses the publisher or copyright-owner that you want in your country, then your only option for legally making copies of non-public-domain hymn-words and sheet-music is to negotiate directly with the publisher.

If you know of other organsiations who are not listed here, please leave a message in the Comments box near the bottom of the page. 

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