What are the risks of playing music at a political event?
1. Copyright Risk
Problem: Standard public performance music licences issued by OneMusic Australia and typically held by venues will not cover the use of music at a political event at those venues if that music is used in a way that suggests an affiliation with a political party.
Risk: To use music that is protected by the Copyright Act 1968 without permission risks infringing the music owners’ copyright.
Solution: Get separate written approval from both songwriters and recording artists before featuring their music at your political event. For most commercially released music, approach the relevant publishers and record labels to discuss the necessary approvals. OneMusic Australia can then assist with licensing the venue or event where necessary.
In Australia, the rights to perform in public the vast majority of commercially released music worldwide are represented by two bodies: the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA) and the Phonographic Performance Company of Australia (PPCA). Both organisations grant permission to publicly perform their music to users such as venue operators and event organisers.
OneMusic Australia is a joint initiative of APRA, AMCOS and PPCA, and issues music licences to both venues and events for and on behalf of both organisations.
There are typically two ways that a venue or event can be licensed by OneMusic Australia:
- A OneMusic Australia venue or promoter licence, where the event is covered under an annual licence taken out by either the venue operator or event promoter (usually a national music promoter); or
- A OneMusic Australia casual event licence, where the event is covered by a one-off OneMusic Australia licence specifically taken out for that event.
Importantly, OneMusic Australia licences would not fully cover the use of music if it was used in a way that suggested an affiliation between that music and the political party. A casual event public performance licence specifically excludes the use of APRA’s music at and for political events.
Allowing musical works (the written song) or musical sound recordings (the recording of those songs) that are protected by copyright to be publicly performed without obtaining permission from the copyright owners risks infringing that owner’s copyright. Organisations found to have infringed copyright risk being liable to pay damages to the rightsholders or being issued injunctions to cease further use of the infringing material.
To ensure you are fully protected from a breach of copyright, you will need to get approval for the use of music at your political event from both the songwriter or publisher for the use of the written song, and the artist or record company for the use of a particular recording of that song.
If you want more information about using music at your political event you can contact OneMusic Australia on [email protected].
2. Moral Rights Risk
Problem: Standard public performance music licences issued by OneMusic Australia and typically held by venues will not cover the use of music in any way that impeaches upon the “moral rights” of a songwriter or artist.
Risk: To use music written or performed by an artist in a way that the artist considers is “detrimental to their honour or reputation” may breach the “moral rights” of that musician as protected under the Copyright Act 1968.
Solution: Get separate written approval from both songwriters and recording artists before featuring their music at your political event.
Creators of musical works have “moral rights” in their works that are separate from copyright protection. Moral rights include the creator’s right of integrity of authorship, which is a creator’s right not to have their work subjected to derogatory treatment.
Derogatory treatment of musical works includes doing anything in relation to music or lyrics that is prejudicial to the author’s honour or reputation. For example, a songwriter that is unaligned with or actively objects to a political cause may raise a moral rights issue if, for instance, a political party that supports that cause features their music at an event. That is, the artist may consider such use “detrimental to their honour or reputation”.
Where moral rights are found to have been infringed, the court may make an order for the organiser to pay damages or issue a public apology to the artist.
Moral rights are always controlled by the creator and cannot be transferred to a third party. That means a songwriter must directly provide any clearances or assurances related to moral rights.
Published songwriters can usually be reached via their publisher whereas unpublished songwriters will likely need to be approached directly for approval. Recording artists can usually be reached via their record label. APRA AMCOS can assist with identifying who to approach. You can complete our request form or contact [email protected]
3. “Passing Off” risk
Problem: Australian law protects the good will held in a particular good against others ‘passing off’ or misrepresenting their own goods as being affiliated with that good.
Risk: Using an artist’s music at a political rally without permission risks giving the impression that the political party is being endorsed by that artist. A claim of “passing off” may result in a claim for damages and/or an injunction.
Solution: Get separate written approval from both songwriters and recording artists before featuring their music at your political event. For most commercially released music, approach the relevant publishers and record labels to discuss the necessary approvals.
“Passing off” risk may arise in circumstances where a songwriter or performer has not given prior consent and a political party or organisation uses their music in a manner that reasonably suggests or implies that the
songwriter or performer is affiliated with the political party, policy, campaign or event which featured their music. This is a risk factor particularly where music is to be featured prominently at a political event and where an artist takes the view that the use has a detrimental impact on their established reputation.
To manage risk in relation to “Passing Off”, consider obtaining separate and specific clearances from songwriters and performers with respect to the specific content in which their music is to be used for a political purpose.