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Music Copyright Licensing Overhaul - OneMusic launches in Australia

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APRA-AMCOS has joined forces with PPCA to launch OneMusic Australia. Launched on 1 July 2019, the initiative revolutionises music copyright licensing in Australia.

Music Copyright Basics

The use of musical works in Australia is protected under the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth).

For musical works - which can include the lyrics, melody and the musical notation or score - and sound recordings, copyright protection provides the owner with an exclusive legal right to reproduce the work and perform the work in public. Users of musical works, especially for commercial purposes, must obtain a licence or 'permission' from the copyright owner in order to legally use the work in Australia.

For example, if a cafe or shop wishes to play recorded music as background music for the enjoyment of customers, it must obtain a licence for each musical work that it plays.

Other common examples of commercial music use include using music while telephone customers are waiting on hold, or using music as part of performing services such as phyiscal training sessions, gym classes or dance studios.

If the music user is not properly licensed, there is a risk that they may be infringing copyright in the works, potentially exposing them to court action and liability. In October 2018, the proprietors of a Melbourne bar Hairy Little Sista were ordered to pay almost $200,000 for failing to obtain correct copyright licences for the music played at the venue. (The level of damages in that case were increased due to the circumstances of the case and the lack of cooperation of the proprietors).

Collection Societies

A collection society is an organisation that exists to administer the process of licensing copyright works. Members of the collection societies (which include composers, songwriters, record labels and music publishers) authorise the collection society to grant licences and collect royalties on their behalf. The collection societies also take legal action to enforce the legal rights embodied in the copyright of the works they administer.

In Australia, the main collection societies for musical works are APRA-AMCOS (the Australasian Performing Right Association, merged with the Australian Mechancial Copyright Owners Society) and the PPCA (Phonographic Performance Company of Australia).

However, each collection society administers different components of the musical copyright. APRA-AMCOS generally administers copyright in the lyrics, melodies and musical notation, while PPCA administers copyright in the sound recordings of musical works. A user may need to obtain separate licences from both PPCA and APRA-AMCOS, depending on how they use the work. For example, live performance (such as a live band playing 'covers') may only require an APRA licence, while playing recorded music from a CD would usually require a PPCA licence.

Speaking with The Industry Observer, APRA-AMCOS CEO Dean Ormiston acknowledged that the fragmented licensing process "could lead to a level of confusion and frustration from [music consumers]."

Enter OneMusic Australia

From 1 July 2019, the forces of APRA-AMCOS and the PPCA combine in a new joint venture, named OneMusic. OneMusic is intended to resolve the fragmentation by providing a single platform for music licensing requiements in Australia. Prior to launching in Australia, the OneMusic platform was piloted for a number of years in New Zealand.

The new OneMusic system is touted as a "win-win" for both consumers and owners of musical works, and is set to the reduce the administrative burdens for businesses trying to ensure they are correctly licensed by simplifying the licensing process and combining royalty fees for the necessary licences. For example, the OneMusic system offers 24 customised licence types tailored to specific industries and use cases - such as cinemas, clubs, karaoke and on-hold music.

More Information

More information about the new OneMusic licensing system can be obtained on the OneMusic Australia website. Existing PPCA and APRA licensees can also contact the respective collection societies for further guidance.


This post is intended for general information only and is not intended to constitute legal advice. You should obtain appropriate professional advice for your circumstances or contact us for further assistance.



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