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Music copyright explained

Learn how copyrighting music works and our role in collecting licence fees and distributing royalties to music creators.

Music rights & royalties

Copyright is free and automatic. Copyright is there from the moment you write down or record the song you've created.

The Australian Copyright Act (1968) gives music copyright owners a number of exclusive rights. Nobody else can use the work without getting the owner’s permission first, and if necessary, paying a royalty for this use.

APRA AMCOS represents 2 basic rights that apply to songs and compositions.

Performing right (APRA)

The PERFORMING right is exercised when a song or composition is performed in public.

This includes:

  • Played live at a gig, concert or festival
  • Broadcast on TV or radio
  • Streamed on digital services
  • Played in a shop or restaurant
  • Viewed on YouTube
  • Used in an exercise class

Reproduction right (AMCOS)

The 'Reproduction right' is exercised when a song or composition is copied in any form for commercial purposes.

This includes:

  • Third party commercial products (e.g. a record label via CD, vinyl, DVD, cassette, stream, and download)
  • Synchronising an existing song with a film or TV programme
  • Sheet music

Music rights management organisations

APRA AMCOS is a music rights management organisation. That means we act as a link between those who create and own the copyright in musical works, and those who want to use it.

APRA AMCOS vs. PPCA – what’s the difference?

While APRA AMCOS administers the performing and some of the reproduction rights in songs and compositions, the PPCA (Phonographic Performance Company of Australia Limited) administers the performing right in ‘sound recordings’ on behalf of record companies and recording artists.

Take the song ‘Friday On My Mind’ by The Easybeats as an example. Harry Vanda and George Young wrote ‘Friday On My Mind’ in 1966. However, in 2008, Ben Lee released a cover version of the song ‘Friday On My Mind,’ as part of a tribute album. So we collected royalties for Harry Vanda and George Young because they wrote the song, while the PPCA collected royalties for Ben Lee’s record label because they released the recording. Learn more about PPCA.

Who's OneMusic

OneMusic Australia is an APRA AMCOS and PPCA joint licensing initiative launched in 2019.

OneMusic Australia offers joint public performance licences so there is no longer any need for separate licence agreements and invoices from PPCA and APRA AMCOS. The new organisation allows music users to more seamlessly meet their copyright obligations for the public performance of musical works, sound recordings and music videos. Learn more about OneMusic.