Young worship leader and faithful reader Cam from Auckland, New Zealand sent in a very thought provoking question:
“Do you think it is ethically right to pay for worship?
I’m not talking about paying the musicians or the speaker, which are issues in themselves, but I’m talking about copyright. Obviously you dont need to play copyrighted music to create effective worship, but for practical purposes this is often the case. My problem is, as an outsider, I see CCLI as charging my church, and almost every other, to worship.
Shouldn’t bands creating popular worship music take out a creative commons licence, meaning we can play their songs in our church free of charge?
It just doesnt seem fair, the way it is right now. My background, uh, I’m 19, a new worship leader at a small church called hillside in Auckland, New Zealand.
Any opinions, information, details, ANYTHING is appreciated, I just want to know more about what I’m talking about.
Keen to hear from you,
Cam – thanks for the question!
At first, the answer seemed easy: It is important to pay if you use someone else’s intellectual property.
What, essentially, does copyright do? Yeah, there’s a ton of legal mumbo jumbo associated with that term, but I think it exists so that someone cannot earn money from someone else’s work. That’s stealing.
That’s why one pays to buy CD’s or downloads from iTunes. That’s why one obtains and secures mechanical licenses to rerecord a song to put on their own project. That’s why one obtains and secures a synch license to put the song on a video (yep, even a worship tune under a youth camp highlight video…).
I only took Copyright 101 in University, and that was more than a decade ago (and forgot most of it) but I do know that one of the primary issues for the existence of copyright is to protect the creator (or copyright owner) of the intellectual property.
Intellectual property is a funny thing. It’s something someone has created, but is not tangible. You wouldn’t steal a loaf of bread from the store, or even a created work like a piece of art. You also wouldn’t steal a CD from the store, nor should you share files (MP3’s, etc.) that are covered by copyright protection.
But what about the heart of your question – playing the song yourself (not the original recording) in a church setting, leading a congregation in worship. Why do you have to pay for that?
This brings up some strong questions:
“Doesn’t the writer want us to lead others in worship with their songs? Don’t they have a heart for the Kingdom? Why are they so greedy? I don’t feel right about paying TO worship…”
There are some deeper issues that will hopefully resolve these questions for you…
After being involved in the Christian music industry for the last decade, I believe with all my heart that paying for what we use, especially worship music, is integral for the health of the Christian creative community.
99% of the people that create the content we rely on for the health and furthering of our churches are not rich or greedy. They’re just trying to survive in this crazy world, yet still being faithful to the creative passions they have been entrusted with by God. They have kids, mortgages, bills, and life to deal with. Many of them rely on live gigs and bookings for their day-to-day livelihood, and pray for residual income to help carry them through the rest of life.
CCLI exists to help make sure that happens. So that churches can perform songs in a live environment, while still honoring the individuals who have used their long-developed skills and abilities to assist us in facilitating great worship through their songs.
Without their songs, the church as we know it would be up a creek without a paddle.
Truth is, CCLI is a brilliant, easy and effective way to distribute royalties to the copyright owners. CCLI charges fees based on the size of a church and global region, collects reports from all churches, and distributes those fees – now royalties – based on a song’s activity. The more popular a song, the higher a percentage of the collected fees it earns. Pretty simple. I’d really advise everyone to spend some time at www.CCLI.com . They’ve got a TON of great info there.
In conclusion, Cam, it’s not wrong for you to question this topic (or any, for that matter). You really make a great argument for “Why do we have to pay to worship”.
My answer is that it ultimately honors God by honoring those that created it, allowing them a realistic livelihood, and the furthering of creativity in the Christian community for the future.
But that’s just my first instinct – what do the rest of you think?
(PS – I just read this to Michael, and he dug it. He mentioned that what we need to do is get a few of us in a room and record our discussions on these type of topics. That’d be cool. Well, there’s always the future….)