Musicians’ Rights and Political Rallies

Thursday, 06 Aug 2015

Some of Australia’s most enduring artists have reacted publicly to the use of their songs at various anti-Islam/anti-immigration rallies staged around the nation under the banner of Reclaim Australia.

Most affecting was Jimmy Barnes’ reaction to a Brisbane rally playing the iconic Cold Chisel song Khe Sanh. In a post on social media, Barnes wrote, “I only want to say the Australia I belong to and love is a tolerant Australia. A place that is open and giving.” He concluded, “None of these people represent me and I do not support them.” (Read his full statement below)

Redgum songwriter John Schumann was “very disappointed” to hear I Was Only 19 was being played at these rallies. John Farnham and Glenn Wheatley called the use of You’re The Voice “disgusting.” Midnight Oil and Shane Howard of Goanna have demanded the groups stop using their songs, and Lee Kernaghan has cautioned them over the appropriation of his Spirit Of The Anzacs. 

So what rights do musicians have over how their work is used – for political ends or otherwise? APRA AMCOS Head of Member Services, Dean Ormston, clarifies how you can protect your music.

“In order to publicly perform music at an event, organisers must secure a licence from APRA AMCOS or directly from the songwriter. Due to various restrictions on licences, APRA AMCOS would not typically grant permission for a political rally unless individual songwriters specifically allowed it,” he says.

“Therefore, publicly performing a song without this licence can amount to infringement of copyright. Even if a licence is granted, the particular circumstances of use may still be considered a breach of the songwriter’s ‘moral rights’.”

In such a case, APRA AMCOS members can take action. This may be as simple as publicly denouncing the group or event. However if the artist finds it particularly egregious, legal action can be taken. Artists are encouraged to liaise with Arts Law for advice on their rights and the most effective ways to communicate with infringers.

Musicians can rest assured that they are not helpless when their music is used to represent views which they do not endorse and APRA AMCOS is here to help you protect your rights.

More information on music licensing for an event can be found at theMusic Customers’ page.

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