Fact Sheets

Playing Music In Bars and Hotels

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 recordings.


What rights do the copyright owners have?

The copyright owners (i.e., the owner of the work and the owner of the recording respectively) have a number of exclusive rights, including the right to:

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

If you want to use copyright music within your business, the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) requires permission (a licence) from the creators of that music.


I purchased digital music through a legitimate online source. Can I stream music from the internet and play it in my bar or hotel?

If you legitimately buy music from legal online distributors you should check their relevant terms and conditions to make sure that you are licensed for the relevant purpose, including for using the music at your bar or hotel.

With regard to copying the music onto multiple devices, 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 you can find at www.pro-music.org


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 and songwriters.


What if I download music to use in my bar or hotel 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.


Can I be held responsible for third parties like DJs, karaoke jockeys or jukebox operators playing illegitimate music at my venue?

As the owner or operator of premises you may be held liable for authorising copyright infringement at your premises by allowing a third party such as a DJ, karaoke jockey or jukebox operator to use illegitimate music.  From a risk management perspective, it may be wise to raise these issues with the DJ or jukebox operator. 


Do I need any licences to play legitimately purchased music in my bar or hotel?

If you're playing commercially released music, you will likely need a public performance licence. Public performance licences for bars, restaurants and hotels can be acquired from OneMusic Australia. OneMusic is a joint initiative by Australia's music copyright collecting societies - APRA AMCOS and PPCA. OneMusic offers blanket public performance licences cover both types of copyright allowing businesses to play music on their premises.


What are the consequences?

Copyright infringement can attract fines of up to $60,500 and up to 5 years imprisonment for each offence. For companies the fines are up to 5 times as much. The Copyright Act also allows police to issue an on-the-spot fine of $1320 and seize pirated music in certain circumstances.


Need more information?

Music Rights Australia



(02) 8569 1177

OneMusic Australia



1300 162 162




(02) 8569 1144

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