Copyright matters

Your questions answered below:

Q. Why are hymns protected by copyright?
Q. What is protected by copyright within Singing the Faith?
Q. But what about “public domain” on the Internet?
Q. What does purchase of the hymn book allow me to do?
Q. CCLI or Calamus: which licence do I need?
Q. Which hymns and songs within Singing the Faith are covered by CCLI or Calamus licences?
Q. Copyright and the electronic words edition of Singing the Faith

Why are hymns protected by copyright?

Copyright exists in order to enable a creator to protect their original work and prevent others from using or altering it without permission.

What is protected by copyright within Singing the Faith?

Copyright exists within five distinct elements of the printed hymn book:

  • Hymns and songs that are not in the public domain*: This encompasses both words and music.  (Where words and music have been written separately, it is probable that independent copyright exists in the words and in the music.)
  • Hymns and songs that are in the public domain* but have been adapted: Copyright exists in any new musical arrangements or changes to words.
  • The collection in its entirety: In addition to copyright existing within individual hymns and songs, it also subsists within the collection as a whole. I.e. copyright protects the particular selection and ordering of hymns and songs which, altogether, make up Singing the Faith.
  • Typographical arrangement and layout: This refers to how the music and words appear on the printed page.
  • The front-cover artwork: The Singing the Faith wording is a unique design by the textural artist Stephen Raw.

*A work will fall into the public domain once copyright expires. For literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works, this is 70 years from the end of the calendar year in which the last remaining author or composer of the work dies. (This may differ if the copyright work originates outside the UK.) Copyright in the typographical arrangement of a published edition expires 25 years from the end of the year in which the edition was first published. More information on copyright in general can be found here.

But what about “public domain” on the Internet?

There is a common misunderstanding about what is meant by “public domain” with regards to the Internet. While work published on the Internet may be publicly accessible, it should not be assumed that it is therefore in the public domain.

Anyone who wishes to put copyright material on the Internet should ensure that they have the permission of the owners of the rights in the material. This is also true if you wish to download or distribute material that others have placed on the Internet. The law may be different in other countries so copyright material may have been put on the Internet in other countries without infringing copyright there, but it could still be illegal to use (including download) the material without permission in the UK.

What does purchase of the hymn book allow me to do?

You are free to sing and play from the printed hymn book (words and music) during worship services as copyright fees are already included in the purchase price of each book.

However, if you wish to project words or music then further permission is required from the individual copyright holders. This also applies to the creation of multiple handouts. So that churches do not have to contact copyright holders each time they wish to use their work, a number of organisations administer licences on behalf of copyright holders’ – principally Christian Copyright Licencing International (CCLI) and Calamus UK Copyright Scheme.

CCLI or Calamus: which licence do I need?

This will depend on which hymns and songs you wish to reproduce as well as how you wish to reproduce them e.g. projection or photocopy.

Christian Copyright Licensing International (CCLI) represents a wide range of copyright holders and offers a number of different copyright licences to churches, schools and other places of worship. To work out which licence may be appropriate for your church’s needs, please see here.

The Calamus licence was acquired from Decani Music in 2019 by the online licensing service, One License. Hymns covered by Calumus include ones copyrighted to The Iona Community and the Taize Community, as well as many hymns drawn from Catholic traditions. It covers much music not covered by CCLI.  For more information, go to the One License website.

Which hymns and songs within Singing the Faith are covered by CCLI or Calamus licences?

Here is the latest advice from CCLI (updated June 2015):

“To check whether a specific song in Singing the Faith is covered under CCLI’s Church Copyright Licence (CCL) and Music Reproduction Licence (MRL), please refer to the CCL and MRL Authorised Catalogue Lists available online at:

If the catalogue named in the song’s copyright information* appears in the appropriate Authorised Catalogue List then the song is covered by that licence.

* Look for the © symbol at the end of each song in the songbook to find the catalogue name.

Songs which are in the Public Domain, because the author has been dead for more than 70 years, do not need to be reported under the CCL. However, they should still be reported under the MRL because of the typographical right that exists in a publication, even if the song’s words and music are both in the Public Domain.

Under their licence terms, churches holding a CCL/MRL are required to report the reproduction of copyright-protected works (songs & publications) to CCLI. From April 2015 this should be done using CCLI’s Online Reporting website

For more information see”

Copyright and the Electronic Words Edition of Singing the Faith

Why is the software tied only to a single computer?

This is in order to fulfil the wishes of some copyright holders.

Where can I store the words files once I have exported them?

You are free to store them on any suitable medium for the exclusive use of the person or church which purchased the program key.

Can I share these words files with others?

The usage is controlled by the owners of the individual copyright, and whether or not you/your church are registered for use of copyright materials through CCLI, or hold any other pertinent licences.

If the text is one which is normally reported through your CCLI license then it is permissible to share the text with necessary parties, for example, members of the audio-visual team, but it must be for the exclusive use of that church.

Any copyright item which is not covered by a CCL or a separate licence for projection cannot be shared round, as the licence would be for use only with the copy of the software (i.e. on the same machine).

If you turn a text into another form (e.g. PowerPoint slides) that would be covered by the same guidelines. Those slides can be only for the exclusive use of your own church, not for sharing round other churches in the circuit, or elsewhere.

Can I use other electronic sources of words?

You can use any sources you wish, but their use must be reported (e.g. through CCLI) according to the copyright control of the source from which you took them.

Can I change the words of hymns and songs that are projected?

You cannot change the words of any copyright item without permission of the copyright owner. All texts exported from the electronic words edition of Singing the Faith have had appropriate copyright clearance for their use according to the licence. No guarantee of availability can be given for any texts taken from other sources.

What are the copyright implications when visiting other churches in my circuit or district?

If you have the electronic words edition installed on your laptop and wish to take it to a church you are visiting in order to project words from it, this is permissible provided the church you visit has a CCLI licence. (A CCLI licence relates to a church (‘a distinct group of Christian worshippers’ CCLI) rather than to an individual.) The hymns and songs projected in that church should always be recorded in that church’s licence report in the usual way.

If a church does not have an appropriate licence then permission to project hymns and songs will need to be obtained from individual copyright holders as appropriate.