Gifts of songwriting—no less than gifts of teaching and administration—are given by the Holy Spirit for the building up of the Body of Christ. Therefore, they should be understood as belonging to the Church—not the gifted individual. We believe it is wicked for Christian songwriters to threaten the Church with lawsuits for the unsanctioned use of their work (1Corinthians 6:1).
How do they make these threats?
Through copyright restrictions mediated by the multinational corporation, Christian Copyright Licensing International (CCLI).
Copyright restrictions require churches to obtain specific, written permissions from individual copyright holders in order to make use of contemporary sacred works. No church desiring to use such works has the resources to obtain and maintain the necessary permissions. That's where CCLI comes in. With incessant reminders of the risks of multi-thousand dollar lawsuits (fear-mongering directly contrary to the explicit command of Scripture), CCLI becomes the licensing policeman between content creators and religious institutions—of course, for a fee. Churches pay annual dues (based on the size of their congregation) to CCLI for the privelege of using sacred works without fear of being hauled into court. Through CCLI's mechanism, licensing permissions are obtained, churches rest easier, and songwriters are (in theory) compensated—though, unless your song is being sung by millions, your compensation will be a few pennies.
We're confident that, were there a way to do so, most Christian songwriters would be happy for their songs to be used freely by the People of God. It would give them joy to bypass CCLI!
Now they can! Creative Commons licenses provide an easy and secure way for Christian authors to grant specific permissions to churches out of that spirit of generosity based upon the Biblical command, "Freely you received. Freely give" (Matthew 10:8).
This is the licensing solution we have chosen for Clearnote Songbook, so nearly all of our songs are licensed under the following terms:
This means (hip-hip hooray!) you do not need a CCLI membership in order to use our songs.
You may copy, distribute, and perform our works for free.
Yes, of course Christians are to take care not to muzzle the ox (1Timothy 5:18). Those who labor in songwriting and arranging do the Church a great service and are certainly worthy of their hire. So we encourage you to give in support of our work as you are able. If you are a worship planner, consider asking your budget committee to designate an annual contribution comesurate with the benefit you receive from the Songbook. If you wish, you may make a donation through the link above.
But note that phrase, "If you wish." There's a world of difference between "if you wish" and "you better, you better, or else."