Playing Music At Events And Functions
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 (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 the music in public (e.g., by playing the tracks in a hotel or function centre); and
- Communicate the tracks to the public.
Do I need any licences to play legitimately purchased music at my function?
Yes, if your function is being held at commercial premises (such as a function centre or hotel) then you will need to ensure that the owner of the premises holds a public performance licence from OneMusic Australia. OneMusic Australia is a joint initiative by Australia’s music copyright collecting societies (APRA AMCOS and PPCA). A single licence from OneMusic Australia covers the copyright in both the musical works and sound recordings.
If you are holding your function at your home, this is considered to be a private function and therefore you do not need to obtain public performance licences.
I bought digital music from a legitimate online music provider – can I play this music at my event/function?
If you legitimately buy music from legal online distributors, or purchase a subscription to a digital music streaming service, you should check their relevant terms and conditions to make sure that you are licensed for the relevant purpose, including using the music in a commercial or public setting.
Please keep in mind that you cannot make multiple copies of a digital music file, such as physically copying the file from your computer onto multiple devices, for use in a business context.
There are a number of legitimate music services 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.
What about downloading music through file sharing or ‘stream-ripping’?
Unless authorised, the vast bulk of P2P 'file sharing' and ‘stream-ripping’ 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 at my function or in my function centre 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.
I operate a function centre. Can I be held responsible for any illegally obtained music played on the premises?
Yes, as the venue operator you may be held liable for authorising copyright infringement if pirated music is played on your premises. This might include iPods that are loaded with illegally downloaded music or DJs who are using digital music devices, such as computers, without the relevant reproduction licences in place. As the venue operator, it is also your responsibility to obtain public performance licence from OneMusic Australia
What are the consequences?
You can be fined up to $60,500 and up to 5 years imprisonment for each offence. For companies the fines are up to 5 times as much. Police can also issue an on-the-spot fine of $1320 and seize illegitimate music product.
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