Legalities of Playing Copyrighted Music In Your Business

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Is your business licensed to play copyrighted music? If not, don’t let your background music come back to bite you.

No-one particularly likes silence, especially if you want to create a vibe for your customers while they sip on their roasted double espresso or meander through your store. What’s the solution here? Legally, what are your responsibilities around music licencing? What is required if you play copyrighted music in your shop, store, business, or public function?

Some clearly audible yet not intrusive background music, maybe streamed straight off your specifically-compiled Spotify playlist or your favourite radio station. 

Nothing could possibly go wrong! Right?

Unfortunately it can if you don’t hold the correct music licenses which permit you to play copyrighted music / sound recording in your business. This isn’t a bad thing – it’s a way for artists and record labels to earn income from their work.

In October 2018, Melbourne Bar Hairy Little Sista learned this the hard way when they were ordered to pay nearly $200,000 in damages for playing nine songs by popular artists including the Beetles and Blue Suede in their venue without paying license fees. 

Despite being warned numerous times that Hairy Little Sista was unlicensed and was therefore infringing copyright, they brazenly continued to do so. Several more letters and one Federal Circuit Court of Australia judgment later, the small business was ordered to pay $185,000 in damages plus costs.

How can you ensure you don't get fined when playing copyrighted music within your business?

Simple... Get Licenced

It’s illegal to play copyrighted music for commercial purposes without a license. Under the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth), anyone who wishes to broadcast, communicate or publically perform copyrighted sound recordings must obtain a license to do so from the copyright

It’s not just music streaming or CD’s that you need to be licensed for. You also need a license if you play music videos on a screen in your business, or the radio as telephone hold music.

Confusingly, businesses will often require two licenses, one for the actual song (the composition and lyrics) and another for the recording of that song.

PPCA License - The first type of music licence

The first license is from the Phonographic Performance Company of Australia (PPCA), which is an organisation that represents the interests of record companies and Australian recording artists.

The PPCA collects license fees on behalf of recording artists and labels, ensuring that they receive a fair return for their music. There are a variety of different licenses available, depending on what you are using their music for, for instance, telephone hold music or background music in a store.

You can apply for a PPCA license below.

APRA License - The second type of music licence

The second license commonly required is issued by APRA AMCOS (APRA), who represent songwriters, composers and music publishers.

APRA licenses organisations and businesses to play, perform, copy, record or make available music, and collect royalties on behalf of their members. As APRA issues specific licenses depending on the type of business you are operating (for instance, a restaurant, fitness centre, hotel, or background music for an office), it’s important that you select the license which corresponds to how you
intend to play music.

You can select and apply for the correct APRA AMCOS license below.

No cookie-cutter licensing solution

Of course, the needs of every business is different, and that includes how they play copyrighted music or videos. If you want to ensure that your business is correctly licensed, contact one of our intellectual property experts today on 02 8644 6000 or


Anneliese Oldcastle

Anneliese Oldcastle

Mark Lazarus, the visionary behind the business and the fresh blood of the Lazarus Legal team, Mark (or Laz as he is often known) owes much of his success to his past experiences. And he’s made it his personal goal to bring that wisdom and formula to the firm.

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