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Do I need a licence if I record a cover to give away for free? Streaming/download/promo

If you want record a straight cover of a song, you are not required to seek permission as long as:

  • You have not arranged or changed the lyrics in any way
  • The song has already had its release in this territory

If you plan on arranging the work or making any changes to it, you will need to seek permission from the copyright holder first. To find out contact details for rights holders you can make an enquiry here.

When you release a cover and make copies of it for digital delivery, CD, DVD or vinyl, a mechanical royalty is payable. You can fulfil your mechanical royalty obligation by either paying the royalties directly to the rights holder or by taking out a licence with APRA AMCOS. The licence you require will depend on the format of your release. For CD, DVD and vinyl please see the Audio Manufacture Licence Application and for information regarding releasing a cover online please contact digital@apra.com.au

If you wish to enter in to a direct agreement with the rights holder please make sure to let APRA AMCOS know so that we can check the member arrangement.

I want to use music in a video and put it online

There are separate rights involved when licensing videos online. First you need to seek permission to synchronise the musical work and master rights (sound recording) to the picture. APRA AMCOS does not have the mandate to license synchronisation and this must be cleared directly with the rights holders. To find the rights holder/s of a particular work, please complete our Research Form. Once you have cleared the synchronisation you will need to approach APRA AMCOS for a Communication Licence. This licence covers you for the communication of works online (i.e. the right to “broadcast”). For more information please contact online@apra.com.au.

I want to make recordings for my students to use for practice at home

As a Dance School operator you will generally require two licences from APRA AMCOS. The first is a licence to play music within your class which you can find more info on here. The second is a reproduction licence issued by AMCOS and ARIA. If you are a teacher and music is copied for use in your lessons (e.g. teaching Dance, voice, musical instruments), the AMCOS ARIA Dance School reproduction licence covers this use. It also covers copies for students for the purpose of practice at home, eisteddfods, and end of year concert videos that are produced by you and distributed only to cover costs. For more information and a copy of this licence, please see the Dance School Licence section of our website and click through to Reproduction of music.

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 of these is that as long as you only use a small portion of a song, you can use it for free. This is incorrect. Under the Copyright Act (1968), there is no accepted portion of a musical work that is still in copyright you can use without permission or payment. You can make alternative arrangements with the copyright owner, but you must seek permission from the rights holder first. To find out the rights holder of a song, compete the Research Form.

APRA AMCOS works 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. 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 send you to the relevant publishers through our free Research Form. To license sound recordings, you will need to talk to the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) as they can assist you further.

Can I print song lyrics out for my choir/ Can I print song lyrics on the cover of my CD?

If you need to copy, scan, arrange or change a piece of copyright sheet music then you will need permission from the copyright owner to do so. Direct publisher permissions are required in all cases, email print@apra.com.au for assistance.

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.

How is APRA AMCOS able to license music use?

Whenever music is performed in public, communicated or reproduced the songwriter and their publisher may be entitled to a payment or royalty. The Australian Copyright Act gives writers 'economic rights' which cover certain uses of their music. By licensing and allowing the public performance, communication or reproduction of their music, songwriters can generate income known as royalties. Songwriters and their publishers have joined APRA AMCOS and together with our reciprocal arrangements with overseas societies, we are able to aggregate their rights to offer blanket music licences. 

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

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 mechanical royalties for any reproduction made 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.

Where does the money go and how do you know who to pay?

Getting the distribution details right is critical for us. It's our job to ensure that we collect accurate data on what music is used so that we pay the right amount to the correct copyright owners. See Where does your money go? for more details.

Is APRA AMCOS a government body?

No. we are a not-for-profit organisation that collects royalties on behalf of those who create the music – composers, songwriters and their publishers.  The organisation’s roots can be traced back almost 90 years to its foundation in 1926 (when radio first started in Australia). APRA AMCOS is Australia’s oldest copyright collection agency. Find out more in the What We Do section.

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.

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.
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.

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