More music, more options for all!

The one great power that copyright grants a creator is the right to prevent others from using your works without your license. This means that if you have a business that uses music, such as a restaurant, fitness centre, cinema, school, or if you are putting on an event or corporate function then you need to get permission from each copyright owner to play that music. This may be easy if you all you want to do is play the latest Lady Gaga classic on repeat at your club, but is much more challenging if you want a wide variety of music to inspire your customers at your fitness centre.

On the basis that it makes sense to have a “one stop shop” which can grant all required permissions at once, in Australia the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA) collects and distributes licence fees for the public performance and communication of its members’ musical works. This means that, instead of asking Ms. Gaga, Minister Garrett and Mr Springsteen (and so forth) for permission individually to use their songs, you can instead get a “blanket” license from APRA to have their work performed in public, and APRA will then distribute the licence fees to the artists.

While APRA’s existence does make life easier for someone who wants to license a range of music, the fact that APRA has a virtual monopoly on the licensing of the entire worldwide repertoire of performing rights for musical works is something that concerned the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. While APRA’ s monopoly on the licensing of music would normally be in breach of the Trade Practices Act, the ACCC may ‘authorise’ businesses to engage in anti-competitive arrangements or conduct when it is satisfied that the public benefit from the arrangements or conduct outweighs any public detriment. Authorisation provides immunity from legal action under the Trade Practices Act.

The ACCC has re-authorised APRA’s monopoly on licensing musical works in Australia on the condition that APRA make it easier for customers who do not wish to get an APRA blanket license to deal directly with the artists and their publishers. In particular, publishers will be allowed to take control of some of their works and license them on a non-exclusive basis directly to consumers. This is expected to assist certain larger companies who only want to license a limited range of songs, but most smaller consumers, as well as consumers who use a wide variety of music, will in all likelihood continue to use the APRA blanket license mechanism.

More information on the ACCC’s authorisation is available at this link.

Information on the role of APRA is available at this link.

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