Fact Sheets

Using Music In Therapy

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, including the right to:

  • Make copies of the tracks;
  • Perform music in public (eg by playing the tracks in the course of your business); and
  • Communicate the tracks to the public.


Do I need any licences to play legitimately purchased music in my therapy classes?

Yes, you may require a licence  depending on how you are using the music. Often the owner or operator of the practice needs a public performance licence from OneMusic Australia for playing music on their premises.  Further, the sound recordings used must be licensed copies.  In rare cases, music specifically designed for relaxation and therapy classes might not require public performance licensing. You will need to contact the OneMusic Australia directly to determine whether or not a public performance licence is required.


What about using music in a one-on-one music therapy session?

Licensing for the musical works is not required in the context of a one-on-one music therapy class.  However, you will still need to obtain a licence  to play protected sound recordings in a music therapy session, even if it is one-on-one treatment. You should contact OneMusic Australia to check what your licensing requirements might be. 


I bought a legitimate CD. Can I make copies for use in my therapy classes?

The purchase of a CD only gives you the right to own the physical disc, to play it privately, and to pass on the same physical disc to another person. This means that copying the music from a CD including onto an iPod, without the permission of all relevant copyright owners, is an infringement of copyright except in very limited circumstances. The Copyright Act allows you to “format shift” music for personal use, for example, to copy from CD format to MP3 format in certain limited situations. However, this does not extend to use of the music in a therapy session. 

If you want to copy your legitimate CDs onto an iPod or onto other CDs to play as background music for your therapy classes, you must get:

  • Permission or a licence from the record company that controls the copyright in the sound recordings (contact the Licensing Department of the relevant record company or ARIA); and
  • A licence from AMCOS for the reproduction of the music.  Generally, AMCOS will offer a “blanket” licence which allows you to be covered for all reproduction of musical and literary works for certain purposes.


Can I download music from the internet and play it in my therapy classes? 

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.  

If you legitimately buy music from iTunes or other legal online distributors you should check their relevant terms and conditions to make sure that you are licensed for the relevant purpose, including for use as background music in your therapy classes.


What about downloading music through file-sharing?

Unless authorised, the vast bulk of P2P 'file sharing' is considered unauthorised copying and transmission of copyright material. This activity hurts sales of music and the livelihoods of people in the business including your favourite artists.


What if I download music to use in my therapy classes 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 you download music files to your PC located in Australia, without the copyright owners' permission, you are committing an infringement of copyright under Australian law.


What are the consequences?

Penalties for copyright infringement range from injunctions, damages and costs through to fines of up to $60,500 for individuals and up to $302,500 for corporations for each infringement and/or up to 5 years imprisonment per offence. Police can also issue on-the-spot fines of $1320 per offence. 


Need more information?

Music Rights Australia



(02) 8569 1177




(02) 9935 7900




(02) 8569 1144

OneMusic Australia www.onemusic.com.au hello@onemusic.com.au 1300 162 162

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