Music copyright licences in the United Kingdom

UPDATED: May 19, 2020

Those playing or performing music on Christian Science church premises in the UK are responsible for ensuring that copyright permission has been obtained before any performance takes place.

Music performance

There are two distinct types of music performance that may take place either during your church activities or in your Reading Room:

  1. Live Music Performance - when an individual or group of people sing and/or play musical instruments in a public place, such as a church building.

  2. Music Recordings - when music is played from a mechanical format such as a CD, cassette or MP3 player etc. in a public place. This includes sound recordings played in the Reading Rooms, for example as background music or when played through headphones on Reading Room players for Reading Room visitors to listen to.

Individuals listening to their own personal MP3 player or other personal audio player (smart phone, etc.) using headphones does not count as a public performance.                

Licensing organisations

  • PRS for Music - represents the rights of composers, copyright owners and music publishers in the public performance of music, either live or from a music recording.

  • Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society (MCPS) - represents the rights of composers and copyright owners when recordings of their works are made. Also at

  • Phonographic Performance Ltd (PPL) - represents the rights of performers and record companies for the public performance and broadcast of music recordings and music videos.

  • Christian Copyright Licensing International (CCLI) - acts as an agent to both PRS for Music and PPL to license churches for playing/performing live and pre-recorded music.                   

Music during regular services

Music which is played or performed within an act of divine worship (either live or from a sound recording) does not currently require the cover of a licence because both PPL and PRS for Music choose not to charge for this activity. The term “act of Divine worship” (sometimes shortened to “act of worship”) includes all main Sunday services, midweek Testimony Meetings, special festivals, weddings and funerals.

Note: Sound recordings played within the Reading Rooms would not be covered within the ‘act of worship' exemption.

Music during other activities

Events, concerts and recitals are not included in the term ‘act of Divine worship’.  These are public performances of live music and a PRS for Music licence is required.  Opening a concert or other event with a prayer or scripture reading does not make it an act of worship for licensing purposes. 

Band, choir and/or other music rehearsals are not deemed public performances and no performance licence is required for these.

Music tuition and music workshops would normally be licensed separately by PRS for Music, but these activities are covered by the PRS for Music Church Licence.

Copyright licences

If music is played from sound recordings in a public place (other than an act of worship), for example in a Reading Room, then the associated church is required to hold both the PRS for Music Church Licence and the PPL Church Licence. The combination of these two licences, both available from CCLI, will provide cover for your Reading Room to play music from sound recordings (CD, music DVD, MP3, cassette etc.) during church activities, outside of acts of worship.

The PRS for Music licences are premises-based.  This means the licence only covers music performance within the named licensed premises.  PPL Church Licences are more ‘fellowship-based’ so an activity of the church outside the Reading Rooms or church building could still have PPL cover, though you would need to ensure PRS for Music cover is in place for the alternative location. 


  1. The PPL and PRS for Music Church Licences do not permit you to make audio or video recordings of music performances.  See Note 2 below about recording church services.

  2. If you wish to record your church services, including live music performances of any hymns and worship songs that are in copyright, you will need a licence from MCPS because of the mechanical recording rights. Alternatively, the additional Church Copyright Licence (CCLI’s song lyric reproduction licence available to churches), includes a free MCPS right which permits licencees to record live music.  Such licenses do not permit incorporating copyrighted sound recordings into audio or video recordings of your service.  See Note 3 below about Dubbing Licenses.

  3. “Dubbing” occurs when an existing copyrighted sound recording is incorporated into another audio or video recording, such as making a recording of your service in which you include a pre-existing sound recording.  If your church wants to include existing sound recordings as part of recording your service, you need to obtain a Dubbing Licence directly from PPL, as the PPL Church Licence available from CCLI does not include dubbing rights.

  4. The PPL and PRS for Music Church Licences available through CCLI do not permit you to web-stream copyrighted music or recordings, including in your services. These licences are available from PRS for Music and PPL.

  5. The PPL and PRS for Music Church Licences available through CCLI do not permit you to distribute (e.g., sell, give away, make available for download) audio or video recordings of your services which include copyrighted music or sound recordings.  Licences for these purposes must be obtained directly from MCPS for music and PPL for sound recordings.

  6. Additional considerations beyond the scope of this document are involved in recording services and sharing services online.  For more information, please contact The Mother Church at

Licence fees

The annual costs of the PRS for Music and PPL Church Licences for the Reading Rooms are based on the average attendance at the associated church. Current pricing can be found at

If a Reading Room requires the PRS for Music and PPL Church Licences to cover the use of sound recordings, CCLI will require the following information from them:

  • Name and Address of Reading Room

  • Name and Address of associated church

  • Average Attendance at the associated church

  • Name, address, telephone number and email address of a contact person 

CCLI will issue a pro forma invoice and, following receipt of payment, a licence certificate will be issued.

Reporting music use

You do not need to report the use of songs played or performed under the terms of your PRS for Music Church Licence.  However, reporting is required for the PPL Church Licence.  This is a fairly simple annual task, requiring only general information about record labels and genres, rather than specific titles.  Reporting must be undertaken using CCLI’s Copy Report software freely available from 

Skype and teleconferencing

Technically, Skype is a live internet broadcast system and ordinarily additional PRS for Music licence tariffs should be charged if music is integral to a Skype call, for example a service is transmitted via a Skype call (or any similar web-technology).  However, since the intention is only to use Skype or other private Teleconferencing for the benefit of small numbers of house-bound or absent members of the congregation to ‘listen in’ to services, PRS for Music has made a concession, saying: 

‘In this specific circumstance and on a non-precedential basis PRS for Music will, at our discretion, not seek to levy additional charges. We (PRS for Music) reserve the right to review this decision in the future’ 

PPL has matched this concession.  The same concessions are also extended for non-internet-based teleconferencing using traditional telephone systems.  As noted above, these concessions do not apply to web-streaming, which is a form of public performance and not a private conference. 

What repertoire do the licences cover?

The vast majority of commercially available music is covered by both PRS for Music and PPL, though there will always be exceptions.  PPL and PRS for Music are affiliated with similar societies across the world. Overseas writers, publishers and copyright owners will receive royalties collected on their behalf for the performance of their works within the UK.

  • Question:  Are there any exemptions from the licence requirements if playing music published and copyrighted by CSPS?

  • Answer: It depends if CSPS or the writers, publishers or performers of the work have signed their rights with copyright agencies and collecting societies.  The best assumption is that at least some of these entities have indeed signed with the relevant agencies and societies, either in the UK or in their home countries.  And although some versions of songs may be out of copyright, any newly recorded performance or musical arrangement will still be protected by copyright.  Either way, if any commercially available recordings are played you will still need the appropriate licences, even if you might also play some music that doesn’t require the licence.  

If you need copyright licences from CCLI

To apply for licences, or if you have further questions, please contact Kevin Deeley by ‘phone on +44 (0)1323 436129, or email

To contact The Mother Church about this, please email