Worship of Heaven: Worship Leaders, Worship Team Members, Performers / Live Worship

Which Songs shall we Sing this Week?

You who lead live praise and worship on a regular basis are among the most visible “servants of God” in any given church, or ministry, and since you only have a limited amount of time to play at any given meeting, you are very serious about which songs you’ll include in your worship set.

What's with all these Attorneys?

There's certainly no lack of great Christian Praise and Worship songs; the number is overwhelming and it's forever expanding. Of course, each of those songs is Copyrighted, and most of their authors have signed them over to a Publisher.

Publishers are in business to make money, plain and simple. Their success depends strongly on the Copyright Law. Because of the Copyright Law, Publishers always have the option of filing a lawsuit against anyone whom they believe has been infringing their Copyright rights. The rules of Copyright Law are mostly straightforward, and there's not much defense available on behalf of Copyright infringers. If the Publisher can prove that someone is guilty of infringement, they're practically guaranteed to win their case. The only real unknown is how much money they can extract from the guilty party in recompense.

The Subscription Service Solution

The threat of being hit with a lawsuit due to Copyright-infringement should sober-up even the staunchest atheist, but for those who fear God, Copyright-infringement is completely unacceptable behavior. Thus, ministries and businesses have arisen which offer various solutions to the "Copyright problem". These "subscription services" can help to keep a good person in good standing with the Law - for a price. However, they cannot provide the legal covering so as to empower their subscibers to do anything they want -- only a few specific things.

CCLI has probably been the most successful subscription service to date. Their primary claim to fame from the beginninig has been that their service allows their subscibers to make photocopies of written sheet music. Over time they've added additional areas of coverage, but there are still a lot of important areas which, unfortunately, remain uncovered.

Many Worship Leaders are CCLI-subscribers (Worship of Heaven's Founder has been a paid subscriber of CCLI's for almost 20 years), and many seem to think that since they're paying CCLI, then surely CCLI provides them with legal coverage for just about anything they might want to do in the area of Praise and Worship music. Unfortunately, this is far from the case.

The Fine Print

So, using CCLI as an example, take a look at what you might want to do - but which you can not legally do - even though you may have a CCLI subscription. The purpose of this list is to display why Worship of Heaven might be worth your consideration.

Dislaimer: Worship of Heaven does not state that this list is exactly correct or that it is up-to-date, but it's not far from the truth, either.

For example:

  • Suppose you want to create a CD/DVD/MP3/tape of your band's worship songs which were recorded as part of a church service, but you do not want to include the preaching part of the church service on the CD? Sorry, but that's not allowable by most copyright subscription services. You typically must include the actual preaching time as well; please check the fine print on your subscription license service.
  • Suppose you want to create a CD/DVD/MP3/tape which is not actually based upon a church service at all, like as if you wanted to record it in a recording studio? Sorry, but most copyright subscription services do not allow this. You're proabably going to have to go back to "square one" and deal with the Publishers directly.
  • Suppose you just want to make a “practice tape” for members of the band, or for singers on your worship team or for your choir members? No one else will hear it, just the band members, that's it. Sorry, though your intentions may be “good”, you still may not do it.
  • Suppose you want to make unlimited copies of your church's worship service? That's not allowable for most subscription services; they typically have a maximum-number-of-copies limit; please check the fine print on your subscription license service.
  • Suppose you want to be able to charge your own price for a CD of your worship service at church? This is also not usually allowable by subscription services; they typically have a maximum-price-allowable for your recording; please check the fine print on your subscription license service.
  • Suppose you want to make a CD/DVD/MP3/tape of your band's music - one which takes place outside the confines of the church's walls - such as at an "outreach event" (whether sponsored by the local church or not)? Unfortunately, this is not covered by most subscription services; they only allow recordings for instances where the band is literally inside the church building; please check the fine print on your subscription license service.
  • Suppose you just want to play some worship songs in a live venue outside the church? Any venue which is not specifically being used for religious purposes - whether it be a bar, a block party, a wedding reception, or any other - does not fall under the Copyright Law's "exemption" clause which allows religious-based songs to be performed live without royalties being due to the Publishers. This means that performance rights organizations, such as ASCAP, BMI and SESAC can legally prosecute you in court for copyright infringement if they choose, unless you're willing to pay up. You probably won't find a copyright subscription service to help you on this one; you'll probably do best to hire an attorney.
  • Suppose you simply want to use a CD/DVD/MP3/tape as your music source, because you either don't have a band to play on that day, or you just want to take a break and worship along with the professionals who recorded the song? Well, for many CD's, DVD's and cassettes, you are not legally allowed to even do that (!!) unless the activity is literally done in the setting of a private home. Many publishers now place specific restrictions on their album covers which say something like, "This music may only be used in a private home. All other use is forbidden, unless Publisher grants written permission to do the same."
  • Similar to the last point, suppose you want to use a CD/DVD/MP3/tape of your favorite worship band as part of your prayer meeting, or as a warm up before your church service, while people are coming in to the building, or as background music during your church altar call time, for example? Sorry; no ... for the same reason specified above.

May I See Your License, Please?

Fortunately, just because a Subscription Service does not cover a given activity (such as "recording"), that doesn't mean there's no way you can do it. In many cases it just means that before doing so you'll need to contact the song's Publisher and apply for a license to use that song. Typically, you'll need to specify the exact activity that you want to do, abide by their rules, sign their contract, pay their fees, and limit your usage of that song to the exact areas which the Publisher grants you in writing (such as the exact URL where the song will be located, if you're going to put it on the Internet).

The process of getting a song license can be long, detailed, frustrating and intimidating. Additionally, you'll typically have to renew your license every 6 to 12 months for each song you license, and you'll typically have to do so until you stop creating copies of your CD (if you made a CD) or until you make the song inaccessible (if you put it on the Internet).

Is There No Way Around All This?

In spite of the solutions offered by Subscription Services, many Music Publishers still threaten a very nasty bite against those who infringe their Copyrights. To the person who just loves to worship God, it only seems natural and reasonable that they should be able to freely record, copy, store, send, give away, distribute - or in any other way "use" - their favorite Praise and Worship songs.

Unfortunately, the "Law" doesn't agree with that assessment, and it doesn't matter how pure the person's heart-motives are. Additionally, as the bullet-list above shows, there are still some important areas of Copyright Law which are not being addressed by the Subscription Services. Worse than that: they may never be resolved, because the Publishers are deathly afraid of losing revenue.

For those of you who are adamant about "obeying the laws of the land" (and we hope that's all of you), the thought of jumping through all these hoops so as to be in adherence to the Copyright Law is just one more huge distraction from your main purpose: to glorify God through your Praise and Worship music. Fortunately, Worship of Heaven offers a solution to all of these issues and more - for free.

The Worship of Heaven Solution

Worship of Heaven offers you a Collection of Songs which songwriters have contributed for the free use of the body of Christ. The original songwriters still own the songs, and they still own the Copyright(s) on their songs, but they have given permission for their songs to be used freely, without royalties or other fees, and without additional licenses or permission being required. Therefore, none of the above bullet-item issues would apply to you, as you use the songs in Worship of Heaven's Song Collection.

Now it's likely the case that you already have a whole repertoir of songs. Most of those songs (other than ones which you or your friends wrote) are both Copyrighted and Published by a company which has "locked down" their use to prevent you from doing almost anything with their Song, unless you license it, as described earlier. Fortunately, the US Copyright Law does at least allow you to perform any Copyrighted song "live" in a "religious service" with no licensing necessary. Therefore, your current repertoir has significant value. No one is suggesting that you throw that out and start over.

Rather, the suggestion is this: merely try adding one song from Worship of Heaven's Song Collection to your song lineup. That's it. It's just like trying out any other song which your listeners don't know. And then, when you're ready for it, add another one. This way, you can gradually test the waters of working with Worship of Heaven, and meanwhile inject some new life into your worship sets.

Expand Your Horizons

Now, when you do this, keep in mind that as far as the Songs which you obtained from Worship of Heaven's Song Collection, not only can you play them live (like any other song), but you can also do the following at any time:

  • Video tape that song and put it on YouTube.
  • Do a live audio recording
  • Do a professional studio recording.
  • Put your video or audio recording on Facebook or virtually anywhere on the web, including your church, ministry or personal web site.
  • "Stream" your performance over the web, whether you do so from within your church building proper or anywhere else.
  • Set up a concert situation and charge for tickets.
  • Make your own CD's, DVD's, MP3's, etc. and sell them or give them away without limit.
  • Play in secular venues (including bars, coffee houses, book stores, schools, business offices, medical facilities, street fairs, county fairs, street corners, parking lots and anywhere else) without ASCAP, BMI, SESAC or any other entity of the Music Industry having any legal ground to press you for payments.

And in accordance with Worship of Heaven's Legal Framework, there are no royalty fees, subscription fees, usage fees or any other fees.

Restrictions for Righteousness' Sake

Now there still needs to be a "restriction" here, and we want to be right up-front about this. This is the same restriction that applies to Recording Artists. That's this: as a User of any of the songs from Worship of Heaven, you legally agree that you will not place restrictions on the "Users" of your recordings of Worship of Heaven's songs.

Being interpreted, that means this: let's say you record a CD with 10 songs on it. One of those songs is from Worship of Heaven, and the other 9 are from somewhere else -- whether original or from some other artists ... now, if you decide to slap a warning on your album which says something like, "All Rights Reserved", or "This music is protected by US Copyright Law and may not be copied", or "This music may only be used in a private home setting" ... then ... in accordance with the Legal Framework of Worship of Heaven, you agree to also place another statement on your album which says something like:

"Notwithstanding this, the following song(s) may be copied and freely distributed in any fashion:  "Song 1" , "Song 2", etc.  (List the name of the Songs which you are using from Worship of Heaven.)

What this means is that in the same way that the Song Writers who contributed songs to Worship of Heaven's collection have sacrificed something for the common good, so you also must do if you are going to use the songs which they contributed. However, this does not mean that you can not sell your CD's, DVD's, MP3's, etc. or charge for your performances. You certainly can and may, as far as Worship of Heaven is concerned, and you can keep all the profits. But, in accordance with one of Worship of Heaven's tenets:

Matthew 10:8 "... 'Freely you have received, freely give ...'"

you agree to forefeit your "legal rights" which are granted to you by the Copyright Law of the USA and other countries so as to exercise control over the distribution of any recordings of your performances - whether they were live performances or studio-type work - in so far as your use of Worship of Heaven's songs are concerned. You agree that it is absolutely "OK" for people to copy your recordings or your live performances of Worship of Heaven's songs, and they may sell those copies, or give them away ... and there will be no royalties coming back to you for it. (Now, they, also, may not legally place "copyright resrictions" upon the songs which they copied from you which came from Worship of Heaven, and they, also, may not limit the distribution of copies of their media, in so far as Worship of Heaven's songs on that media are concerned.)

Which Side of the Fence Would You Prefer?

But don't let this legal arrangment scare you off. The above restrictions will "get in your way" only if you are trying to "clamp down" on the free distribution of your recordings or performances of Worship of Heaven's songs. Remember, in the contrived scenario above, on your CD you also had 9 songs which were not from Worship of Heaven? You can still "clamp down" on the users of those songs if you insist.

In other words, you can still do what most Recording Artists and their Publishers do today: you can threaten people with lawsuits, criminal prosecution, huge fines, attorney's fees, jail time, and so forth for your other 9 songs ... if your conscience really feels that's the Christ-honoring way to market your Praise and Worship music! The Copyright Law still provides you with the legal right to do that for your Songs which did not come from Worship of Heaven.

But you do not have the legal right to do that with any songs obtained either directly or indirectly from Worship of Heaven. That type of activity is expressly forbidden for the use of any Songs from Worship of Heaven's Song Collection.

There's A Revolution Coming

There's a revolution in the Music Industry coming - at least in terms of how it deals with Christian Praise and Worship music - and it's going to accompany the oncoming increase of God's glory across the earth. The ministry which is "Worship of Heaven" is an attempt at setting in place a Christ-honoring alternative to the money-centric, dog-eat-dog spirit of the Music Industry, so as to prepare for the fulfillment of promises from Scripture such as the following:

Isaiah 60:1-3 "Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn."