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Producing Legal CDs and DVDs in the Church (Part Two)

Producing Legal CDs and DVDs in the Church (Part Two)

In a previous post, I discussed three licenses that must be understood if your church wishes to produce DVDs and CDs containing copyrighted music. Today, I will discuss which of these are needed for specific projects you may be considering.

CD Projects

To produce a CD with copyrighted music, you will either need just a mechanical license OR both a mechanical license and a master recording license for each copyrighted song. If you are producing a CD of your church’s entire worship service, you will need a mechanical license for every copyrighted song that is used in the service. Additionally, if you include recorded music in your service (whether playing a recording of a song or playing a soundtrack for congregational or choir singing) you will need a master recording license AND a mechanical license for each recorded song that is played.

For example, Sunday’s service included the following songs:

  • Friend of God (live music)
  • Forever (live music)
  • To God Be the Glory (live music)
  • Total Praise (choir with accompaniment track)
  • Hosanna (live music with accompaniment track)

To legally produce CDs that include these songs performed in this fashion, you would need the following licenses:

  • Friend of God (live music)  mechanical license only
  • Forever (live music) mechanical license only
  • To God Be the Glory (live music) no license needed – song in public domain (no copyright) Note: if this public domain song is sung with an accompaniment track, you would need a master recording license to cover the copyrighted track, but no mechanical license.
  • Total Praise (choir with accompaniment track) mechanical license AND master recording license (due to the accompaniment track)
  • Hosanna (live music with accompaniment track) mechanical license AND master recording license (due to the accompaniment track)

NOTE: remember, if you have a CCLI license, you can legally produce a number of CDs and DVDs not to exceed 15% of your congregation’s average attendance as long as you charge no more than $4 for a CD or $12 for a DVD. See previous post for more information. If you intend to produce a number in excess of your legal limits, you will need to obtain licenses for the project. Your CCLI license does not cover accompaniment tracks.

Sometimes, worship teams wish to produce a CD of upcoming worship songs for their musicians. If you are using original recordings of the songs, you will need a mechanical license and a master recording license for each song. CCLI now offers a rehearsal license to handle all your license needs.

Patrick Watts, of summed it up this way:

Think of it this way: A wrote the song, and B made the accompaniment track.

You need a mechanical license from A to make use the song on your recording.

You need a master recording license to use B’s accompaniment recording to make your recording.

Before you even entered the picture, B got a mechanical license to make their accompaniment recording, but because you’re creating yet another new recording, you also need a mechanical license from A. B doesn’t automatically have the right to relicense the song on A’s behalf.

Sometimes A and B are the same person… or same group of people, or same company, but oftentimes they’re different.

DVD Projects

DVD projects are similar to CD projects except the video sync license is needed in place of the mechanical license. You will need a video sync license for every copyrighted song that is performed on the video. Additionally, any recorded song (or accompaniment track) that is used will require a master recording license in addition to the video sync license.

Be aware that generally you cannot include professional video that you have purchased to use in your service. You will need to check with the video producer for any rights or permissions that would need to be secured to include the video in your DVD.

If you produce a video with “background music,” such as a slideshow of pictures from a recent missions trip with a copyrighted song playing in the background, you will need a video sync license and a mechanical license for that song.


Jumping through all the legal hoops for these projects can be overwhelming. There are organizations that are ready to help the church obtain all the proper licensing. One such organization is Christian Copyright Solutions. I will be securing their services to handle licenses for a recent CD project of the 2011 NC Baptist All State Youth Choir. I will let you know how the process goes once it is completed.

Additionally, Christian Copyright Solutions has some great resources to help you along the way. Much of this material comes from one of their publications, Legal Creations of CDs and DVDs. Take a look at their other free resources.

Coming Up

People usually assume that you can make “convenience copies” of music. For instance, you copy an anthem out of a collection you own because you do not want the choir to hold a few large books when they need only one anthem from each book. Is this legal? Find out next week!

About The Author

Kenny Lamm

Worship Consultant for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. A frequent worship clinician and guest worship leader. Extensive work in worship renewal in several Asian countries.


  1. Justin Bouldin

    Yes it does. Thank you so much for the clarification. I appreciate it!

  2. Justin Bouldin


    What is the limitations on the CCLI license and the 15% distribution of CD’s? Is that per year, per CD, and are there any limitations on what you can put on them? Thank you for all of your hard work helping us do the best job possible to make worship all that we can for the glory of God!

    In Christ,


    • Kenny Lamm


      The 15% limitation is a per service CD. You cannot produce other types of CDs under this license–just recordings of your worship services. SO if you record your services, you can reproduce every service on CD up to the 15% of your license maximum size limit. Does this make sense?


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