Fact Sheets

Internet Cafes

What’s copyright?

When someone creates a piece of music (or a piece of text, a graphic, a photo, a film or anything else that is protected under copyright laws), a whole system of legal rights and obligations comes into play. These rights and obligations outline what someone can and can't do with the material.


Who owns the copyright in a piece of music? 

There is generally more than one owner of copyright in any given musical track. The composer who wrote the music owns copyright in the musical works. The lyricist who wrote the lyrics owns copyright in the literary works. The artist who performed the music owns copyright in a sound recording of their live performance. Finally, the maker of the recording (typically a record company) owns copyright in the sound recording.


What rights do the copyright owners have?

The copyright owners have a number of exclusive rights, inclduing the right to:

  • Make copies of the tracks;
  • Perform music in public; and
  • Communicate the tracks to the public.


Can I or my customers to download music from the internet? 

The basic principle is that you cannot copy or distribute music including from the internet without the permission of all relevant copyright owners. There are a number of legitimate download sites in Australia which are listed at www.pro-music.org


What about downloading music through file-sharing eg  Bittorrent?

Unless authorised, the vast bulk of peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing music is considered as unauthorised copying and transmission of copyright material.  Not only is it unauthorised but this activity hurts sales of music and the livelihoods of people in the music business.


What if my customers download music from a site overseas where the law might be different?

Internet activities of this sort typically involve acts of copying, transmission, or distribution in both the ‘receiving and sending’ countries and laws of each will apply. Be aware that if your customers download music files to PCs located in your internet café in Australia, without the copyright owners' permission, they may be committing an infringement of copyright under Australian law.


Can I download music on to my server for my customers to access?

For the reasons set out above, downloading through P2P file sharing is generally unauthorised as is the subsequent distribution of that music to your internet café customers. Even if you have legitimately downloaded music from a legitimate download site in Australia such as iTunes, that music is only to be used for your private use and cannot be accessed by customers in your internet café. 


What are the consequences?

If you, your employees or your customers are engaging in copyright infringing activities such as downloading unauthorised music from the internet or from your internet café’s servers then you, your company and/or its directors may be held liable for authorising the copyright infringement.

Individuals can be fined up to $60,500 and imprisoned for up to 5 years for each offence. For companies the fines are up to $302,000 for each offence.  The police can also issue an on-the-spot fine of $1320 and seize music and devices, including computers and servers used in the commission of the offence. 


Are there other reasons to be wary of allowing unauthorised music at your internet cafe?

There are a number of other reasons as to why you should be wary of illegal music at your internet café:

  1. Viruses and spyware: unauthorised file sharing networks are notorious sources of viruses that can crash individual computers and spread through your internet café network.  They may also be sources of spyware that report on computer usage, deliver advertising or unsolicited files;
  2. Compromised network security: unauthorised file sharing software typically demands an open port between the user’s computer and the internet and severely undermines network security and firewall integrity.  In addition, there are security and privacy concerns for your internet café business as files may be inadvertently shared and whole hard drives unknowingly made accessible to file sharers. 
  3. Resource drain: unauthorised file sharing uses up gigabytes of servers and hard drives, plus precious and expensive internet bandwidth.


What can you do to make sure that users in your internet café don’t engage in copyright theft?

  • Set a customer policy that clearly explains to users that the unauthorised copying and distribution of someone else’s music is copyright theft which your internet café does not support. 
  • Take copyright inventories to audit certain types of copyright material on your internet café servers.  Music files are generally 3-5 megabytes in size, stored in .mp3, .wma or .wav format and stored in /my music or shared directories.
  • Regularly delete copies of unauthorised music from your internet café servers and any devices.
  • Control file-sharing by banning unauthorised file sharing software and using the Digital File Check program (available at www.musicrights.com.au) to find and remove it.
  • Set firewall rules that screen out infringing files and illicit services, for example through blocking particular internet addresses, ports or protocols on which file sharing often occurs.
  • Watch traffic levels for internet café users that are hogging bandwidth.
  • Maintain up-to-date anti-virus and spyware software to screen rogue files that contain viruses, spyware or other damaging materials.


Need more information?

Music Rights Australia



(02) 8569 1177

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