Collecting Society Projects/Australia

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Parties Involved

1. APRA-AMCOS - two separate non-profits that maintain joint operations, consisting of:

  • The Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA) - the performing rights collecting society for Australia and New Zealand
  • The Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society (AMCOS) - the Australian and New Zealand collecting society for 'mechanical’ royalties eg the reproduction of musical works on CDs, DVDs, music videos etc

2. Creative Commons Australia - based at Queensland University of Technology and headed up by Professor Brian Fitzgerald.


How does it work

Currently, Australian and New Zealand musicians do not have the ability to legally license their works under a Creative Commons licence.

Problems with the current system

APRA, like many collecting societies around the world, takes a full assignment of the member’s performance and communication rights (eg broadcasting or posting online) of all past, present and future works. Assigning the rights to the collecting society allows more efficient administration and enforcement of the royalty collection process. However, it also causes compatibility issues for collecting society members who wish to issue their music under direct licences, such as the Creative Commons licences.

In simple terms, because of the assignment, the creator no longer has the right to issue any direct licences for the performance or communication of their works. This means they can't legally issue their material under a Creative Commons licence without APRA's permission or, for that matter, upload it to services such as MySpace, YouTube, and other social networking services. It also means that current APRA members are, as yet, technically not able to make use of most of the online business models enabled by these platforms. Often musicians are not even aware of these legal complications, and put themselves at risk by licensing their material in ways that are technically invalid.

Licence Back and Opt Out Mechanisms

APRA has historically had two mechanisms that allowed its members to regain control of their works — "Opt Out" and "Licence Back". However, limitations in the terms of these mechanisms meant that they were insufficient to enable musicians to (legally) use CC licences. The Opt Out mechanism allows an APRA member to permanently regain their rights over their work for a specific category of use (eg performing the work in public or radio broadcasting) - but does not apply to communications of the work, or allow licensing for purposes outside the specified category. Under the Licence Back, the member obtains permission from APRA to use their work for a specific work one-off purpose (such as playing it at a charity gig) - but can't license the material to others and needs a separate permission every time they intend to use the work.

Non-commercial Licence Back

To address this issue, in late 2008 APRA introduced a new "Noncommercial Licence Back" which allows APRA members to make their musical works available online for noncommercial purposes. This mechanism aims to increase the options for musicians to utilise digital technologies to promote and capitalise on their music. The musician can now host streamable and/or downloadable audio files of their musical works on their own website, or on third-party sites (where the reuse is noncommercial), or even grant their fans the right to host songs on their websites or personal blogs.

However, because it only applies to online communications (ie doesn't include other uses such as broadcasting or performance) and then only in certain circumstances, the new Noncommercial Licence Back option still has limited application. It doesn't allow Creative Commons licensing (which applies to communication, broadcast and performance) and won't allow musicians to upload their material to most popular Web 2.0 platforms.

Definition (Non)Commercial

Experiences (so far)

Additional Information

Go back to collecting society projects overview page