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Churches need to keep copyright issues in mind
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When choir directors prepare a Sunday performance - or even something for a special concert - it takes lots of planning and thought.

Not to mention getting the OK to use copyrighted music.

Churches don't get a free pass from the record labels or musicians to use their music; permission from some source must be granted.

"There is the Christian Copyright Licensing International, CCLI, and that's how we deal with it mostly if we want to use a chorus for the whole song or we want to print it in the bulletin," said Eddie Simmons, the music minister at Central Baptist in Gainesville. "There is an annual fee to be a member that is according to the size of your church, about $150 to $200 for Central Baptist. Mostly the new music I buy I get from Pine Lake Music."

Simmons said it is important to make sure you register every song you print with CCLI.

"It's against the law to copy music that's still in print ... if it's out of print then you have to call CCLI or the publisher of that piece of music," he said.

But AJ Parker, director of creative arts at Lakewood Baptist, said there is some Christian music out there that is public domain.

"Of course you've got some stuff that is public domain, a lot of the Christmas songs are public domain so there is no copyright registration needed," Parker said.

Lakewood also uses CCLI for all of their copyright needs for both the traditional and contemporary choirs.

"Everything we do is registered through them. And every time we choose a song and we have to go into their database and we pay an annual subscription and basically find the song we are doing," Parker said. " ... there's a whole credit system, where every time you make a copy you have to say you made a copy, and basically just keeps everyone who wrote the song, did the arrangement, keeps them paid and everyone legal."

CCLI doesn't try to promote any Christian congregational music. Rather, the company is just the clearinghouse for music ministers to get reprinted music.

"We're really about congregational music, supplying churches with music for the congregation to sing from, not for the choir," said David Gauthier, a licensing sales representative at CCLI. "We are just a permission company to authorize churches on behalf of the Christian and sacred music gospel publishers that the churches can reprint songs as they need it in formats for the congregation to sing from, whether it is printed or projected."

If if weren't for companies like CCLI, music ministers would have to contact each publisher of each piece of music for permission.

"That's really our role, to save everybody time and expense on both sides," Gautheir said. "They can't field 150,000 permissions a week. What we formed here in 1988, that was the idea. We aren't a publisher, we don't own any music, we don't publish music, we have no interest in promoting anyone's music over the next guy's music."

Since so much music has entered the online medium, CCLI also is in the game by offering downloads as well.

"We started this online Internet music resource on behalf of the music companies," Gautheir said. "Whereby a church can subscribe to the service called Song Select and then they can get the words for songs if they want to put them up on a screen or print them out in a bulletin or they can get very simple musical notation for a church band.

"It is not choral music at all, it is the very simplest form of music."