Proposed changed to the Dramatic Context definition - answering members' questions

Thursday, 09 Nov 2017

The Notice of APRA’s 2017 Annual General Meeting contained a proposal to amend the Constitution as it relates to the definition of “dramatic context”. APRA’s Board of Directors has considered the proposed amendment and recommends it to the membership. 

Today we answer some questions we’ve recently been asked by members in relation to this proposed change to the definition.  

What is APRA’s role in licensing works in a dramatic context? 

It’s important to note that APRA doesn’t own the right to perform works in a dramatic context. Performances in a dramatic context are excluded from the assignment to APRA because copyright owners usually want to have greater control over the use of their works in productions where the works are selected for their dramatic value. This is similar to the licensing process for the use of a musical work in a film, where the copyright owner retains the synchronisation right. 

While APRA doesn’t own the rights for music performed in a dramatic context, some writer members and music publishers appoint APRA AMCOS to act as an agent on their behalf and license dramatic context performances. However, the copyright owner often retains the right to approve a licence. We are advised by members of works where a licence can never be granted by APRA, and works where APRA must refer the proposed use back to the copyright owner for permission. Part of the new arrangements will be that APRA will be able to license the dramatic context performance of all works for primary schools, and more works for educational institutions, dance schools and for low value productions without having to refer to back to the copyright owner.

What is the proposed change to the definition of “dramatic context”?

Replace the current definition of ‘dramatic context’ – 

Dramatic Context means in conjunction with 

(a) acting;

(b) costumes;

(c) scenic accessories;

(d) scripted dialogue or other dramatic effects;

or as a ballet; 

With this new definition - 

dramatic context” means the performance of musical works:

a) in conjunction with a presentation on the live stage that has: (i) a storyline; and (ii) one or more narrators or characters; or

b) as a Ballet.

What are the benefits of the proposed change? 

The proposed change is intended to make APRA’s definition of “dramatic context” simpler and easier to apply in practice for both members and licensees. 

This change is intended to ensure consistency of licensing across certain markets, and certainty for members and licensees. It should also help with the situation that arises when production elements change during the rehearsal process, because the new definition relates to the nature of the production, rather than to specific production elements such as scenic accessories. 

The current definition is different from the one used in major theatrical markets, such as the UK. This means that some productions that have been licensed as concerts in the UK would be licensed as dramatic context in Australia. We are proposing to essentially adopt the UK definition, which should benefit members and licensees by providing greater clarity when approving works to be licensed as dramatic context in multiple markets. 

Dramatic context licensing is very labour intensive and often involves dealing with licensees who are inexperienced in matters of music licensing. The proposed changes should result in a smoother licensing process for all involved (licensees, members and APRA). 

Need more information? 

Publishers please contact our Publisher Relations team on (02) 9935 7900 or email

Writers please contact our Writer Services team on 1800 642 634 or email

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