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Why do I need an APRA AMCOS licence?

APRA AMCOS is the ONLY body who has AUTHORITY from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to license the copyright in a work on behalf of the original composer, songwriter and publisher.

  • The ACCC is an independent Commonwealth statutory authority whose role is to enforce the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 and a range of additional legislation to promote competition and fair trading and to regulate national infrastructure for the benefit of all Australians.
  • APRA AMCOS’ arrangements across its membership, licensing, distribution and international relations have been consistently authorised by ACCC for around 15 years.

Without a licence you would need to deal directly with the composers, songwriters and/or publishers who own the rights in the song/s you wish to use.

What music can I play under my APRA AMCOS licence?

An APRA AMCOS licencecovers the majority of copyright music being played, with the exception of:

  • Music which is out of copyright. A licence is not required for these works.
  • Copyright music where the rights holders have not assigned the performing rights to APRA AMCOSor one of our overseas affiliates.
  • “Royalty-free” music where the music is in copyright but the rights holder does not require the user to obtain any additional licence.
  • Music which is specially written for dramatic performances, such as musicals, operettas and ballets (also known as Grand Right works). To use this music, you need to get permission from the rights holder directly.

If you believe you may be using music which does not require an APRA AMCOS licence, please contact us for further information.

Where do my APRA AMCOS licence fees go?

Approximately 85 per cent of your licence fee goes straight back to songwriters, composers and publisher members as royalties. The remaining 15 per cent is used to administer these royalties. Any licensee can review our accounts in our annual Sustainability report on our website.

Our costs compare very favourably to organisations providing the same service overseas. 

There are several ways we calculate how much to distribute and to whom. One way is through Direct Allocation, where royalties are paid directly to the songwriter or composer through the specific, reported use of their music. Examples include:

  • Individual commercial radio and television stations reporting the music they broadcast;
  • Digital download services and record labels reporting the tracks or CDs they sell and their sales volumes;
  • Services using Music Recognition Technology like digital fingerprinting and audio-recognition to match performances/broadcasts to their databases;
  • Data from music providers who supply programmed curated music for specific industries, such as fitness;
  • Background music suppliers who provide us with music reports from their clients’ playlists; and
  • Set lists of musical works performed by artists and musicians at live/dance events and festivals supplied to APRA by event promoters.
Do I need an APRA AMCOS licence if I play royalty-free music?

Our licences provide the easiest and most cost-effective way to access the world’s repertoire of music for use in your business.

However, you can contact music suppliers who offer a limited range of recordings of music that they state is outside of our repertoire and does not need our licence. This music is sometimes called “royalty-free” music, although we have found some of the music still requires a licence from us - please contact us and we will check for you.

Be aware that the duration of copyright varies from country to country and that while something may be “royalty-free” somewhere else, it is not necessarily “royalty-free” here in Australia.

Also be aware that if your repertoire is exempt from PPCA or ARIA licence requirements it may not necessarily be exempt from APRA AMCOS licence requirements.

Do I need an APRA AMCOS licence if I only play music from overseas?

Yes, a licence is required. APRA AMCOS has reciprocal agreements with collecting societies worldwide.

For example, PRS for Music administers Courtney Barnett’s rights in the UK, which means that royalties for performances in that territory are collected by PRS for Music and distributed to her accordingly via APRA AMCOS. Similarly, APRA AMCOS administers Ed Sheeran’s rights in Australia and pays his royalties accordingly through PRS for Music.

How often/long do I need to pay an APRA licence for?

Please note the following applies to APRA invoicing only.

You pay when you first take out the APRA licence, then when it renews once a year. If your licence fee is more than $500 we will put you on quarterly payments (with no interest) or you can choose to pay annually.

If you no longer need our licence (e.g. if you cease to use music), you can terminate with one month’s notice to us. APRA licences are not transferrable. Therefore, if you have taken over a business or changed your ABN/ACN then a new APRA licence will be required.

What is PPCA, and do I require a licence from them if I already have one with APRA AMCOS?

PPCA stands for the Phonographic Performance Company of Australia Ltd. It is a separate organisation to APRA AMCOS and grants licences for the broadcast, communication or public playing of recorded music (such as CDs, records and digital downloads) or music videos. PPCA then distributes the licence fees collected to the record labels and recording artists registered with them.

In the instances where a work is recorded you are required to hold a PPCA licence as well as an APRA AMCOS licence for the public performance of works as there are (at least) two copyrights covered:

Rights owners

Performance Right

Mechanical Right

Songwriters, Composers and their Publishers

APRA

AMCOS

Recording artists and their Record labels

PPCA

ARIA

In a few countries these copyrights fall under one organisation (such as OneMusic in New Zealand), but most countries have two organisations to cover specific copyright use.

I only play free-to-air TV or radio. Do I need a licence from APRA AMCOS?

Yes, music on free-to-air TV or radio played in your business is a public performance of that music. This needs permission from the copyright owner of that music and the APRA AMCOS licence grants you this permission.

The separate broadcast and communication licences held by radio and TV stations cover their broadcast and communication of that music, but not your public performance of the music they broadcast.  

What is reproduction and why do I need to take out a reproduction licence when using digital music services?

The use of a digital music service in a business requires a licence from APRA AMCOS. As it currently stands, in Australia/NZ, almost all digital music services limit their service for personal and domestic use only. This is because the provision of a “commercial” offering requires the digital music service to obtain additional rights from copyright owners. This includes the rights authorising the reproduction or copying and storage of music in different formats (rights administered by AMCOS). Historically the AMCOS rights were bundled into the sale of tape cassettes and CD’s, however these rights are not cleared by digital music services.

In order for a business or a commercial entity to legally use a digital music service as background music, the business must obtain both an AMCOS licence to extend the use of the service into a commercial context and an APRA licence to authorise the Public Performance of music. (It is advised that businesses should refer to the Terms & Conditions of the digital music service’s end user agreement as to whether there are other permissions they require). A business should also contact the Phonographic Performance Company of Australia (PPCA) on 02 8569 1111 to clear the rights in the use of sound recordings on such services.

Music copied to a digital music player (iPod, tablet etc) to play as background music will also require a reproduction licence.

My music is supplied by a background music supplier. Do I need an APRA AMCOS licence?

A background music supplier is a company that creates and supplies curated playlists and tailors them to a business type and specific clientele.

This supply of music requires a public performance licence from APRA AMCOS.

Some background music suppliers cover your APRA AMCOS public performance licence fees. If your background music supplier has such an arrangement with us and you only use music in the ways they've authorised, then you will not need any additional licences from us. If you use music in ways not covered by your supplier – for example live performances, karaoke or TV screens showing free or pay TV - then you will need an additional licence from us.

Background music suppliers are different to music service providers* such as Apple Music, Google Play, Pandora and Spotify etc. For these, a subscription fee is paid to access the provider’s repertoire as opposed to having a playlist being supplied to you for your specific purposes and again a Public Performance licence from APRA AMCOS is required.

Contact us if you are not sure whether you require one of our licences.

*businesses should refer to the Terms & Conditions of the music service’s end user agreement as to whether there are other permissions they require.

Do I need an APRA AMCOS licence if I pay live performers or they choose to perform live for free?

In most cases an APRA AMCOS licence is required, however, you can negotiate a direct licence with the performers. If you choose to do this and the performer agrees, they will need to apply to us for a licence-back or opt-out arrangement to allow them to license their rights in this way. They will also need to ensure that they get the consent of any co-writers, or music publishers who may have an interest in any of the works they will be performing.

What is the difference between public and private functions or events, and how does it affect my licensing requirements?

A public performance is deemed to be a performance outside the private or domestic domain (i.e. home, private car, hotel room or hospital room). A wedding is categorised as a private event for instance, but a centenary parade in a regional town is a public event under our definition. A 21st birthday held at a nightclub, and where the party goers dance to the music played by DJs is also a public event. See more on Event Licences here 

Does my APRA AMCOS licence cover me to use music across multiple locations?

An APRA AMCOS licence is required for each location where music is being used. If your locations are trading under the same ABN then those locations can be licensed under the one account. Please contact us for further information.

What happens if I don’t take out a licence?

We will provide a reasonable time frame for licensees to take out a licence before escalating the matter.

Failing this, APRA AMCOS will enforce its rights on behalf of its affiliate members, which could involve court proceedings or debt recovery. Such action may result in the business having to pay the licence fees as well as legal costs and debt recovery fees.

Over 95% of businesses and organisations that APRA AMCOS deals with are readily compliant.

What are my options if I do not agree with how a licence is applied to my business, the fees, or with any of APRA AMCOS’ services?

Let us know at licence@apra.com.au or on 1300 852 388 and we will look into your concerns.

Alternatively, you may wish to refer the matter to APRA AMCOS’ independent dispute resolution process, which offers resolution pathways designed to assist parties to resolve disputes or to ensure an independent determination of issues where appropriate. For more information about this process, see: apraamcos.com.au/feedback-centre/alternative-dispute-resolution/

If you have a complaint about what we do or how we do it, information about APRA AMCOS’ complaints procedure is available at: apraamcos.com.au/feedback-centre/compliment-and-complaint-details/

Understanding your APRA invoice after reassessment

Please note the following applies to APRA broadcast invoicing only.

You will receive a default invoice, an estimate of your music use. Once a year this is credited with a tax adjustment and replaced with a reassessment invoice showing your actual music use.

Example: Fitness Centre and Instructors Licence Reassessment

For the 2015 licence year, the Coolong Gym estimates they will hold 20 classes per week for 48 weeks a year for a total of 960 classes under their APRA AMCOS Fitness Centre and Instructors Licence.

960 classes x $2.65 per class = $2,544 annual APRA AMCOS licence fee

At the end of the licence year, the Coolong Gym completes a reassessment form with APRA AMCOS to reflect they held only 15 classes per week for 48 weeks for a total of 720 classes.

720 classes x $2.65 per class = $1,908 annual APRA AMCOS licence fee

The Coolong Gym paid $2,544 in 2015 (the first licence year), their reassessment of music use will generate a credit of $636 ($2,544 - $1,908), and be applied to the invoice for the 2016 licence year.

Example: Live Artist Performance Licence Reassessment

The Great Venue has estimated gross expenditure on Live Artist Performers of $20,500 for the licence year 01/01/2015 – 31/12/2015. They have also estimated gross sums paid for admission to be $150,000 for the same period.

$20,500 x 2.2% = $451
$150,000 x 1.65% = $2475

The Great Venue’s total APRA AMCOS licence fee for Live Artist Performers is therefore $2926. (All APRA AMCOS licenses over $500 per annum are invoiced quarterly.)

APRA AMCOS will issue The Great Venue four invoices as follows:

Invoice 1 for $731.50 for the licence period 01/01/2015 – 31/03/2015
Invoice 2 for $731.50 for the licence period 01/04/2015 – 30/06/2015
Invoice 3 for $731.50 for the licence period 01/07/2015 – 30/09/2015
Invoice 4 for $731.50 for the licence period 01/10/2015 – 31/12/2015

At the end of the licence year The Great Venue completes a reassessment form with APRA AMCOS that reports their actual gross expenditure on Live Artist Performers at $25,600 and the gross sums paid for admission to also be higher at $185,000.

$25,600 x 2.2% = $563.20
$185,000 x 1.65% = $3052.50
Total APRA AMCOS licence fee for Live Artist Performers = $3,615.70

Based on the information on the reassessment form, four new quarterly Tax Adjustment Notes (invoices) are then raised to account for the invoices previously issued for this period, and a revised invoice for $3,615.70 is raised reflecting the actual figures for the licence year 01/01/2015 – 31/12/2015. The balance to pay of $689.70 is taken up in the following quarter’s invoicing activity.

I receive my invoices each quarter, how often can I alter records of my music use through the reassessment process?

APRA only reassesses your account annually. If you receive a quarterly invoice, you are able to make changes only once a year, at your renewal.

How much can I use of a song without having to pay for a licence?

There are many myths relating to music copyright. The most common myth we hear is that, as long as you only use a small portion of a song, you can use it for free. This is, unfortunately, incorrect. Under the copyright act, there is no accepted portion of a musical work you can use for free. While it’s not impossible to use a musical work for free or without having to take out one of our licences, you will need to seek permission from the rights holder first. To find out the rights holder of a song, compete the Research Form.

APRA AMCOS work on behalf of songwriters in Australia and around the world and have established a wide variety of licenses to assist the use of our members work by the public. While it’s not impossible to use a musical work without having to take out one of our licences, you will need to seek permission from the rights holder first. As a brief overview of music copyright, there are two rights involved with recorded music. The two individual rights are of the sound recording (generally owned by the record label or recording artist) and the underlying composition (generally owned by the songwriter or publisher). APRA AMCOS can assist in finding out the relevant publishers through our free Research Service. In order to licence the sound recordings, you'd be best to talk to the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) and they could assist you further.

What if a business is using music illegally, who can I advise?

If you feel that a business is using music illegally, you should inform Music Rights Australia (MRA). You can do this by filling out their report anonymously on their website by following this link on the MRA website.

How long does copyright last & what is Public Domain?

When a song is written, the composer is the copyright owner of the work. Where the work is performed, communicated or reproduced the copyright owner is entitled to a royalty payment. The life of copyright in the Australasian territories is 70 years, which means that the composer, their Publisher or their estate is entitled to receive royalties for their work for up to 70 years from the date of their death. Once the 70 years has passed, the work is then in the Public Domain which means it can be used without a fee and without requiring permission from the composer or their estate. If you would like to check the status of any work please enquire via our Research Form.

What is OneMusic Australia?

OneMusic Australia is an APRA AMCOS and PPCA joint venture to be launched in the second half of 2018.

OneMusic Australia will offer joint public performance licences so there will no longer be any need for separate licence agreements and invoices from PPCA and APRA AMCOS. The new OneMusic Australia joint venture will allow music users to meet copyright obligations for the public performance of musical works and sound recordings much more seamlessly. 

Please note that, until the launch of OneMusic Australia, it is business as usual with both APRA AMCOS and PPCA. You will still continue to receive separate correspondence and your obligations to each remain unchanged.

What is APRA AMCOS?

APRA AMCOS is the trading name of APRA and AMCOS. APRA AMCOS grants licences for the live performance, broadcast, communication, public playing or reproduction of its members’ musical works. APRA AMCOS then distributes the licence fees collected to its over 89,000 songwriter, composer and music publisher members and affiliated societies worldwide.

What is PPCA?

PPCA is the Phonographic Performance Company of Australia Ltd. PPCA grants licences for the broadcast, communication or public playing of recorded music (such as CDs, records and digital downloads or streams) or music videos. PPCA then distributes the net licence fees collected to its licensors (generally record labels) and registered recording artists.

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