music copyright

Copyright in The Music Industry – The Must-Knows 

Gabby Zgrajewski
Gabby Zgrajewski

On the business end of music as a local artist, you wear the hat of booking agent, publicist, manager and social media strategist to name a few.

As a musician, it is important to understand the inner workings of the music industry business to ensure that you are covered. One of the important aspects is music copyright and its laws to protect your music creations and intellectual property. 

What is Copyright? 

Copyright laws are structures in place to protect the rights of people who create artistic work. As a musician, your work is intellectual property and copyright laws help you obtain ownership of your assets. Whether your property is the lyrics, instrumental, or a completed song, your work is your property despite it not being a material object. 

 The Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) covers specific things including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works. It also protects subject matter other than works including films, recordings, broadcasts, and published editions. 

How can I obtain a Copyright for my work? 

 Luckily in Australia, once a song has been recorded, you automatically have a copyright on the item. There is no need to register your music as it is free and automatic under copyright laws. 

 How long does Copyright last?

 Copyright legally lasts the duration of the creator’s life, plus 70 years after the creator’s death. For a musician, this is once the song has been commercially released whether digitally or physically. 

 Once the copyright has expired, the music will be free to the public domain for anyone to copy. Although no need to worry about it in this lifetime!

 Is my work copyrighted in other countries? 

 Good news! It is. Thanks to an international treaty called The Berne Convention, your music is protected across the globe to ensure that your work does not get plagiarised, and you get paid. 

 Created in 1866, the Berne Convention has many countries that have signed the treaty over time. The countries who have signed the Berne Convention have acknowledged and agreed to create and pass laws that extend to the other countries in the treaty. 

 The Berne Convention has created and maintained a minimum standard for copyright laws across the nations that have signed the treaty. This allows Australian musicians to enjoy the same or similar benefits of copyright as they do in Australia.   

How is copyright monitored for Australian Musicians? 

 There are two major companies that monitor and distribute royalties for the Australian music industry. Check out the information below for a breakdown of the two: 


The Australasian Performing Right Association Limited and  Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society, or more commonly known as APRA AMCOS is a joint organisation dedicated to music rights in Australia. Split into two sectors, one being APRA and the other being AMCOS, they are dedicated to ensuring royalties are paid to musicians.  

Representing Australian music globally, they have agreements with similar organisations across the globe. They will collect and distribute royalties to you; the best part is that membership for musicians is free!

 APRA AMCOS provides licences to businesses to play, perform, copy and record the music licensed under the organisation. They ensure you are paid accordingly anytime your music is used one way or another. 


 The APRA in APRA AMCOS covers the performing rights of copyright laws. So anytime a song or composition is played in public, they ensure the musician or creator gets their royalties. 

 Public performance includes anything from playing a live set, TV or radio play, digital streaming, YouTube, or playing in a venue that plays music like a shop, café or restaurant. 


 AMCOS exercises the ‘Reproduction right’ for artists when a musical work is reproduced in any form for commercial use. 

 The reproduction of a track consists of a commercial product like a CD, vinyl, streams, or downloads from a record label. Although, having your track feature in a film or tv show and reproduction of sheet music of your song can also be claimed through AMCOS. 


 The Phonographic Performance Company of Australia Limited (PPCA) exercises copyright and collects royalties when a sound recording is performed in public spaces. Established in 1969, the PPCA is a national, non-government non-profit organisation. 

 Representing recorded Australian artists, the organisation grants ‘blanket’ licences for broadcast, communication, or public playing of recorded music and music videos. 

 Like APRA AMCOS, the licensing fee that PPCA collects is distributed between the owner or licensee of the copyrighted recording, Australian artists who performed the recording and the PPCA Performers trust foundation. This is a trust fund that makes grants to encourage music and the performing arts. 

 You’re all caught up!

 You are all caught up with the very basics of Copyright within the music industry, and the wider entertainment industry for that fact. 

 Although as a musician, you might think it is not important for you to know this information, it is. The more of an understanding you have about the business of the music industry, the more you can work towards being a boss in music. 

 For more information on public performance, have a look at our public performance licence article for more information!
For venues looking to licence music in Australia, copyright laws cover you too. We broke down APRA AMCOS, PPCA and OneMusic in a quick guide to put you on track to playing those sweet tunes. 

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