Whether it is during a service, at a wedding, a baptism, a funeral, a youth group, a fête or a social; music plays a huge role in the church. Due to this, it’s vital when using music in different ways that churches are aware of the copyright obligations they may have.

Licence Information Guide

This is a basic guide to understanding music copyright in the church. The APRA AMCOS and PPCA licences noted below cover both sacred and secular music and enable churches to ensure that their copyright obligations are met. Where APRA AMCOS and PPCA may not be able to license a certain use of copyright music, content owners and other organisations such as Christian Copyright Licensing International (CCLI) exist to do so.

Performing live and recorded music outside a service of worship

While churches don’t need a licence to play music in a service of worship, they do need a licence to play music at other church events; e.g. at youth groups, discos, fêtes, concerts or art shows.

If you are holding a free event where no professional musicians get paid, then the APRA Churches Licence will cover you to play music. If you are playing sound recordings at your events – not just live music – then you’ll also need a PPCA Licence.

If you are holding an event where admission is charged or musicians are paid for their performance, you will need further licensing beyond the Church Licences mentioned above. From APRA you will need a Casual Event Licence and from PPCA you will need either a General Licence or an Events and Festivals Licence, depending on the kind of event.

We recommend applying for these licences at least two to four weeks’ in advance of the event to ensure that there is enough time for the licence to be processed.


Performing live and recorded music in a service of worship

Playing or performing music in a service of worship doesn’t require any licensing from APRA or PPCA. This includes playing music in a service, at a wedding, a funeral or a baptism. The service does not need to be in the church – e.g. an outdoor wedding – as long as it is for the purpose of worship.

Playing music on your telephone hold system

If you play music on your church telephone hold system, you need to make sure you have an APRA Music on Hold Licence and a PPCA Music on Hold Licence.

Copying recordings for use at church events including services

If you need to copy recordings of secular music that you own into a different format e.g. burning a CD – for the purpose of playing that recording at a church event, you will need a Casual Reproduction Licence from APRA AMCOS. If you are copying existing, commercially released sound recordings then you will also need to seek permission from the record label that owns the copyright in those sound recordings. Not sure who the relevant record label is? Information is usually on the back of the CD or in the file notes of a legal download – then you can contact ARIA for assistance.

If you are only copying sacred works such as hymns, then the may cover you for this use. Recording your own version of copyright songs If the church choir or instrumental group wants to make a recording – e.g. to sell as a fundraiser – that contains covers of other people’s works (be they sacred or secular), then they will require an Audio Manufacture Licence from APRA AMCOS.

Making a video of a church event for domestic purposes

If your church wants to make a video recording of a service of worship that contains sacred or secular music to provide to those involved – e.g. to give a couple a video of their wedding ceremony – then you require an AMCOS ARIA Domestic Use Video Licence.

If you are making a video of a service of worship for the purpose of providing to someone who is physically unable to attend the service – e.g. due to disability or illness – you do not require any licensing.

Making a video to sell or screen

If your church wants to make a video containing secular copyright music to sell, give away or screen publicly, then permission needs to be sought from those who own the music and the sound recording separately. APRA AMCOS, ARIA and PPCA aren’t able to license the use of music in this context. If you’d like assistance with getting in touch with the copyright owners, we can help.

Only using sacred music? The CCLI Church Copyright Licence may cover you to make and sell the video.

Photocopying sheet music and lyrics

If the church needs to photocopy the music or lyrics of secular works – e.g. to put in an order of service – then further licensing is required from the copyright owner directly. This is something APRA AMCOS is able to help facilitate if you email us.

If you are copying sacred works such as hymns, then the CCLI Church Copyright Licence or CCLI Music Reproduction Licence may cover you if the works you are using are within their repertoire.

Streaming services or events online

If the church wants to make their services or events available online by way of audio-only streaming, then they must obtain an Online Mini Blanket Licence from APRA AMCOS.

For information on audio/visual streaming of services or events, please contact us at online@apra.com.au

Playing commercial movies at church events

If your pastor wants to use a portion of a movie – e.g. to illustrate a point in a service, or you want to show a feature film as part of your youth group  you need to obtain a CCLI Church Video Licence and/or a Big Studio Movie Licence to cover this performance. Please note the CCLI Church Video Licence and Big Studio Movie Licence cover different studios. 

Funeral directors

If your church conducts funeral services run by a registered funeral director, that director may have obtained licensing through the association of which they are a member to use music in different ways – e.g. making recordings, including lyrics in order of service booklets, making videos and slideshows or allowing the family of the deceased to do so.

Need more information?

We’re here to help, please contact us on 1300 852 388 or licence@apra.com.au.

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